The environmental impact of meat production varies because of the wide variety of agricultural practices employed around the world. All agriculture practices have been found to have a variety of effects on the environment. Some of the environmental effects that have been associated with meat production are pollution through fossil fuel usage, and water and land consumption. Meat is obtained through a variety of methods, including organic farming, free range farming, intensive livestock production, subsistence agriculture, hunting and fishing. As part of the conclusion to one of the largest international assessments of animal agriculture ever undertaken, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations said:
The livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution.
Study shows red meat dwarfs others for environmental impact, using 28 times more land and 11 times water for pork or chicken.
Beef’s environmental impact dwarfs that of other meat including chicken and pork, new research reveals, with one expert saying that eating less red meat would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars.
The heavy impact on the environment of meat production was known but the research shows a new scale and scope of damage, particularly for beef. The popular red meat requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases.
Agriculture is a significant driver of global warming and causes 15% of all emissions, half of which are from livestock. Furthermore, the huge amounts of grain and water needed to raise cattle is a concern to experts worried about feeding an extra 2 billion people by 2050. But previous calls for people to eat less meat in order to help the environment, or preserve grain stocks, have been highly controversial.