5 Reasons to Eat Less Meat

There are many ways in which modern agricultural practices harm the environment. Clearing of native vegetation destroys biodiversity and deprives wildlife of habitat. Planting of monocultures requires the addition of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides that then leach into the water table. Both of these are harmful to the climate as well, releasing carbon that is sequestered in the soil, and reducing the plant cover that would take carbon dioxide from the air. One of the most harmful agricultural practices, on several levels, is the production of meat. As permaculturists, we should always be seeking to minimize our harmful effects on the planet, so taking a look at the meat we eat is art of that assessment. Here are some reasons why cutting down on the meat in your diet will benefit the earth.

Climate Change
Modern agricultural meat production is one of the worst contributors to man-made climate change. Indeed, a report produced in 2006 by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization calculated that the global meat industry was responsible for as much as 18 percent of all man-made greenhouse gases. That is a greater proportion than the emissions produced by all the cars, trucks, and airplanes in the world combined. There are several ways in which the meat industry contributes to climate change.

Firstly, because most commercial livestock are produced in unnatural systems that depend upon processed feed, rather than natural plants, their feed is artificially produced. This tends to involve heavy use of inorganic fertilizers to grow crops that are then processed into food in combinations with inorganic materials such as antibiotics. These fertilizers are typically heavy in nitrogen and can cause the emission of nitrous oxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Growing feed crops, for cattle and pigs, produces more nitrous oxide emissions than crops that go directly into the human food chain. These fertilizers also tend to remain in the soil and leach into water systems, having a far-reaching detrimental effect on natural ecosystems.

Producing livestock also means the emission of methane from the animals themselves. While some climate change deniers claim that animal emissions, because they are natural, cannot be a bad thing, but the continually rising demand for meat means that the animals are stocked in numbers far greater than that which could be considered ’natural’. It is not the animals’ fault, rather our demand for meat that causes this contribution.

Furthermore, the greenhouse gas emissions of transportation are increased by the meat industry in order to transport animals, finished meat products and animal feed. This transportation can be over very long distance, often across international borders.

Inefficiency
It takes a much greater amount of energy to produce food for livestock than it does to produce plant-based food. These are, of course, plants that could be used to feed people in a much more efficient manner. It is also estimated that in the USA it take over fifteen times as much fossil fuel energy to produce livestock feed than to produce an equivalent quantity of plant-based foodstuffs. This is another way that modern meat production contributes to climate change, by perpetuating the reliance on fossil fuel technology that produces greenhouse gases.

Water
Permaculturists know how precious an element water, which is why they try to find the most efficient ways of gardening that preserve as much of it as possible. On a larger scale, eating less meat would have a significant impact on minimizing water use. In modern agricultural systems it can take as much as 50,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef, when one factors in all the energy inputs. However, to produce the same amount of rice takes just 2,500 liters. To produce fruit and vegetables takes even less water. Increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet and decreasing the amount of meat, helps to preserve water.

Soil
The rising demand for meat means that more and more land is cleared for animal production. This means clearing of forests for grazing and growing crops for animal feed. This decreases biodiversity, exposes the soil to erosion and compaction, as well as affects the salinity of the soil be changing the way rainfall interacts with the soil. Once more, such activities also add to the climate change problem – by destroying forests, which are natural holders of carbon, we add to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Welfare
Sadly, in many modern livestock production systems, the welfare of the animals is not a primary consideration, coming far down the list when profits are at a premium. Stocking levels are high, which raises the risk of disease meaning food is often laced with antibiotics. Natural behaviours can be denied to animals – consider the life of a battery chicken, spending its life in a cage with no stimulation, no straw under its feet, nowhere to scratch or roost – and many are transported long distances in crowded trucks to slaughter. Permaculture is centered on the notion that nature knows best, so in a permaculture system, animals are, as much as possible, allowed to express their natural instincts. Eating less meat from commercial producers

There are good sources of meat that are not as damaging to the environment and prioritize the welfare of the reasons to eat less meatanimals. Organic and free-range meats must meet certain standards in terms of the quality of the meat and the wellbeing of the livestock. At present, these meats cost a little more than the less stringent producers, but by eating less meat you can eat better meat without spending any more. Even better, try to source organic meat locally, so that you lessen the distance it has to travel (limiting transportation emissions) and support local producers. However, the simplest and healthiest way to make a difference is simply to eat less meat – less frequently and in smaller portion sizes. Reducing meat consumption also significantly reduces your risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. So eat less meat to make life better for you, the animals, and the planet

82 comments
Dave

I find this article rather ironic for a website that teaches Permaculture. “Eat less meat because when you don’t raise animals the Permaculture way its harmful to the environment”

Vladislav

Dave, no matter how slice it or dice it, meat consumption is not sustainable on any meaningful scale. Permaculture has to be scaled up to be meaningful, and removing animals from the system should be seriously considered.

I raise my own and feed them what I grow.

Dave

I disagree vladislav, I believe animals are an important part of any regenerative system. They help cycle nutrients through your system much faster and help sequester more carbon in your soil faster and have a wonderful byproduct of meat. Removing animals is counter to the natural systems that we are trying to emulate.

What the hell does farmers have to do with meat prices? If the farmers farm where they hurting the consumers then the farmer should pay the price not the consumers. Why should the consumers pay for what the farmers do wrong?

Just need one, cost.

Just like everything else, grow your own and enjoy.

Matt

i agree with Dave

Any number of permaculture teachers have said “include animal systems into your property if possible”
Rotational grazing like Joel Salitin does followed by chickens to break down and clean up the mess has improved and built the soil health at polyface and many other propertys

pretty sure there not grow to look good ……

How about eating less of everything. We are kinda eating too much of everything.

“Advanced agricultural practices often prove to be a curse for mankind as they harm our environment severely.” The issue then is with the advanced factory farming practices, not with eating meat. There are people all around the world eat meat without relying on industrial agriculture. As responsible permaculturists, we should learn to source our meat outside of this destructive paradigm, and create and promote different systems of raising and accessing meat which are ethical to both the animals and the land. Simply forgoing meat does nothing to address Big Ag, or build viable alternatives to it which might contribute to eventually rendering the systems of big ag obsolete. Preaching to reduce or eliminate meat consumption is the wrong message, and ultimately counterproductive.

I’d rather give up meat from the grocery stores and get it from my local farmer instead… I am becoming more confused about permaculture because I thought it was about rotating my animals and planting after rotation to increase yields and enrich the soil. I have not read it yet, but I will. My impression is that it is about factor farming though.

Well, eating less meat than what we used to is, anyway, healthier… I don’t think anyone can say anything against this statement. Or am I wrong?

No we’re just not producing / harvesting wisely.

Think of it like this, it’s now estimated that by cultivating Seaweed along 9% of our Coastlines, we would have enough Biomass to produce all the Fuel the Planet would need.

This leaves plenty of space for the Seaweed Industry Association to cultivate even more offshore for Biopolymers and hundreds of other commercial products in an environmentally beneficial and completely sustainable manner.

Best of all, when these sorts of materials are disposed of, instead of a toxic landfill, they can make energy in Anaerobic digesters with those final residual wastes being used as a soil amendment or processed into Animal fodder.

I believe if all the land used to grow food for animals except enough to suppliment winter feeding was turned back to pasture it would greatly benifit the planet and our food supply that much less fuel tilling and planting that much more grasslands to hold soil and snow cooler in summer cooler in winter ever see ripples of heat from sun on a plowed field n winter animals would be pasture raised and actually healthy to eat. I could go on but who besides. Me cares

If I were battling a chronic illness then I would give up meat. We are not all identical drones, despite the pharmaceutical industry needing us to be. My blood type requires me to eat meat. If I didn’t, I would not get my fats from protein and those are beneficial to the brain.

That said, I certainly don’t believe in the 4 food groups or the pyramid scheme either. I do believe the mantra that we are what we eat though. 🙂

I’m not vegeterian and I don’t judge people who is… I’m just saying that our society eats too much eat because centuries ago it was a symbol of being extremely wealthy, so we took this ‘bad habit’… But this doesn’t mean that we should give up meat… It would be very good to us to eat LESS meat 😀

Marco, you are wrong. The popular line that red meat causes heart disease was cooked, as the studies designed to prove it actually didn’t.

We don’t need to eat less meat, we need to raise our meat more intelligently and more ethically.

This just reads as some seriously under researched click-bait. Permaculture is about emulating and recreating natural systems for human cohabitation and use. Guess what – natural systems include animals

shawnbahramy

I think this article is speaking to the general public more than to permies. This article hopefully speaks to the people that think they need to eat double cheeseburgers twice a day to have a satisfying meal. There is a disconnection between life and food currently, and it’s really sad the situation we’ve put our animals in – and like the article said it’s because our DEMAND for meat. So I think this article is very relevant – eating less meat can have a positive impact.

Yes! We can have a huge impact on the envionment if we just stop eating beef.

So happy I stopped eating meat five years ago.

who can afford to eat beef?

Do it! All the more for me….

Meat is fine.

This is a bunch of crap. Last one was how bad it was to drink milk from a cow. OK then get rid of all dairy products! We will go back to milking Ma Ma again? or drink some thing worse. Now here its meat! Cost to much & whats all bad about meat? Theres less & less farmers these days & gas prices didnt help the problem any. We will still eat meat the same way. Thats not going to stop me i know. And how do we have a huge impact on the environment if we just stop eating meat? How? I like to know. I think it would hurt the world if that happen! Did you know. 80% of Americans only pocket $10 a day after all their expenses!

This one is like religion and poly ticks, we just are not all going to agree. For those of us that do eat meat, please consider that all meat isn’t equal. Cows take up a lot more resources than most other meats. Some fish are very sustainable while others are not. etc. And of course, not much on this planet tastes as good as bacon; a little goes a long way! Your mileage may vary.

Eat bunny then they cant fart or burp LoL 😉

This person is an idiot. They need to do some study on how each type of animal needs to acquire the needed nutrition. Health humans need animal protein to be at their best. And, yes, plants do have mommies and daddies. Study horticulture – stamen and pistils. Duh.

lmao there are health benefits to eating less meat. I didn’t say go vegan, just eat less. I cut way back and it saved my life.

Nope….I’m still gonna eat meat….. I think if we’re going to reduce the number of cows on the planet, we need to just start killing them off. And hey, why waste all that meat? (joke)

Nope….I’m still gonna eat meat….. I think if we’re going to reduce the number of cows on the planet, we need to just start killing them off. And hey, why waste all that meat? (joke)

Hell NO! Meat eaters are healthier than non meat eaters. Time to go hunting. 🙂

There’s a good case to be made for eating meat, you just have to raise your animals intelligently. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI

Instead of telling me to eat less meat, why don’t you work on convincing people to stop overbreeding our species with the new generations spaced too close together considering our increased lifespans? My beef is pasture raised locally and slaughtered locally. Farmers would love it if more of us bought directly from them. That would support carbon sequestration, too, as they use the manure as fertilizer.

Did you learn something from the video?

Terri

Chemical free, organic meat is good for you. Raising beef using advanced intensive grazing methods is a tremendous benefit to the ecosystem and regenerating healthy soils. Now, here is some additional truth. Methane from cows does not cause greenhouse warming. All of the methane ultraviolet heating has already been generated by water vapor in the atmosphere. All of it. There is absolutely no additional warming caused by cow belches… Enjoy healthy grass-fed meat and realize it has been around for centuries and will make you healthy.

Sorry… Still carnivorous over here.

Permaculture, you suck!

I was veggie for 15+ years for environmental reasons. Then I lived on an organic farm that included goats, chickens and an occasional beef cow. It was the healthiest, cleanest, greenest farm I’ve ever seen.
When I self righteously asked the owner of the farm why he wasn’t veggie, he humbly replied that it made more sense to him to eat a chicken from his yard than tofu out of a box. I’d like to see a study on how much damage packaged food does on the environment…
There are many studies out there now that show animals can be a vital part of a permaculture system; they are the most efficient way for nitrogen to travel up hill.

Diana your surname suits you. Best response to this article I’ve seen so far. Thank you for your input! I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Thank you

I had many of the same pro veggie/anti farm animal attitudes I see, but then I really examined the facts. And lived them.
I think most people are trying to do their best and react emotionally to what they think is right. I just try to present what I’ve learned.

Healthy humans do not need animal meat. Biologically speaking we omnivores, but closer to herbivores

Hell no, God made us to be omnivores and as far as that greenhouse gasses bulls**t, co2 is plant food and I would love it if our winters were about 50 degrees warmer. Longer growing seasons. Wake up people, global warming is a political hoax.

Were is the beef just quit adding growth hormones its not ment to eat a young animal it is ment to grow up with out the growth hormones that is what’s not healthy !!!!!

Yes…..we are having a free showing of “Cowspiracy” at the Clinic on Tuesday Feb. 2nd at 6:00 pm. Come get educated: 162 S. Barr Rd. Pk rt Angeles. Reservations requested- 360-457-1515.

Eliminate the real stuff or make it more expensive and restaraunts and food factories will be adding more fillers and synthetic foods to up the difference. Find another solution. Recycle waste, migrate the herds, etc.

It works on my farm

People who are against raising cattle have never been on a good working farm or cattle ranch. Their heart might be in the right place but they don’t know what they are talking about. I’ll continue to eat meat just like Native Americans used to enjoy eating buffalo. There used to be thousands of buffalo on the Prairie and now we have some steers. Big deal. They both ate grass in areas that were perfect for them.

Permaculture… Are you buddies with Al Gore???

Now I agree completely; however, is this going to make the animals fart less???!!!

Would you address the less benign affects of warming oceans, perhaps?

I’ll continue to eat meat, thanks.

There were millions of buffalo and far less people.unindustrialized tribes and nations, as was most of the planet. Then not now

Bruce what you say is so true. But I doubt buffalo then or cattle now are contributing much to global warming or distruction. Industrialization would be worthy of concern. We might have to agree to disagree

or just pay a bit more n eat meat from local farms that are free range, living and eating as they should.

Do you mean apart from the fear mongering that these global warming nut jobs insist on promoting? The earth has had cycles of warming and cooling for thousands of years, none of which have been caused by man or cow farts. We just aren’t that powerful.

Im an omnivore I will never stop eating meat blood just tastes so damn good nothing better than broccoli covered with butter next to a fat juicy rare steak mmmhm or bacon eggs and oranges now im hungry see what you did

No because I don’t eat that much meat to begin with

Everything produced in mass quantity can de made to look bad. A matter of best practices is a good place to start.

Oh gosh. I liked your site until you bought Al Gore’s propaganda!

52 lbs of reason to eat more!

Does jerky count?

Iam a vegetarian I only eat animals that eat vegetation

LoL @the idea that a couple of aggressive sentences on social media will change my entire perspective on meat in my diet! If you want to cut down on greenhouse gases and environmental impact there a lot of relevant deserving targets out there.

Just live with respect for all things…It’s not about meat or veggies y’all…the planet Earth is not big enough for how many people live here now. So there is mass production of everything! Including food! I don’t even care for most veggies at the store. I eat meat and veggies. Kill the meat and pick the veggies. Caint everybody do that in NYC

Cowspiracy sheds light on this for those who rather watch film than read.

Ummmm….. Have you guys taken the Eco science class at UCLA?…. Large scale veggie farming has destroyed 95%of America’s prairies. And has contributed to top soil erosion. And some places wild fires from over growth. Cattle farming compacts the top soil fertilizes the land and grazing keeps plants in check. Mother earth news also backs this up. Remember there used to be millions if bison roaming those now farm lands

anglii

How Grassfed Beef Will Save the World
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yxMNHsK-IpI

stumpdummy

visit here to see what’s good about eating meat raised the right way. Improves health. wealth and the environment :https://www.facebook.com/regenerategrassland?fref=ts

Some of us have no choice

No dairy or eggs, either. Time to shift away from this evil ideology with the trifecta of damage it’s causing.

For me. I stopped eating red meat, cuz I ran out, and the arthritis in my right hand just up and disappeared. True Story.

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