A single burger with a whopping £345,000 price tag might spark images of heavily pampered cows roaming through fields of plush organic grasslands with a solid gold, cashmere quilted temple of a cow shed in the background, but in reality these high production costs can not be attributed to extreme cattle pampering. Instead these burgers are produced in a petri-dish by men and women in white coats, without a gleaming blade of grass in sight.
With sustainability being such a prevalent issue, we are all being told different ways we should help to reduce our carbon footprint. Fortunately supermarkets are more frequently offering organic meats and farmers markets are popping up left, right and centre. However, to what extent would switching to artificial meats tempt you into action, particularly with the latest horse meat controversy which has forced consumers to question what ingredients are really entering their meals.
Most of us only want real meat in our stomach which has been grown on a farm, not in a lab. In addition due to our increased prosperity over the last 100 years and the increased availability of meat, our diet has evolved to include meat daily.
What we need to take into consideration is how many other people also want an abundance of naturally grown meat in their diets?
The realistic answer would be mostly everyone, which is a very large amount.
Some meaty facts:
– Each individual meat-eater consumes around 60 – 100 animals every year.
– According to viva.org the total number of animals killed in British slaughterhouses in 2011 was over 958 million. This included 8.5 million pigs, nearly 15 million sheep, 931 million chickens and 2.8 million cattle. This is equivalent to 15,000 per minute. That’s a lot of animals.
– Environmental charity Friends of the Earth, has claimed that UK Factory farmers are contributing to the destruction of an area of Brazilian rain forest and grassland twice the size of Greater London every single year. In addition in a report named From Forest to Fork, Friends of the Earth estimates that British imports of beef and soy for animal feed resulted in an additional 1200 square miles of deforestation in Brazil in 2009.
– The 2006 the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report names Livestock’s Long Shadow´ concluded that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of global CO2 emissions. Now take into consideration that the greenhouse gases released by all forms of transportation combined, amounts to 13% of the total emissions in comparison.
– Environmental author John Robbins calculates it takes 60, 108, 168 and 229 pounds of water to produce one pound of potatoes, wheat, maize and rice respectively. But a pound of beef requires around more than 20,000 pounds of water (or 9000 litres) of fresh water.
What is the solution?
These facts outline just a few of the repercussions of pastoral farming. But before we decide that this blog is the ranting of a raging vegetarian, let’s get this straight. I’m a meat eater myself and have been born and bred as such. I mean, with a Spanish mum and an English dad, I stood little chance of being a veggie between my dinners of sausages and mash and chicken paella’s! But looking at these stats does make me think and also makes me want to change my diet.
So what’s it going to be then? Eat meat and negatively contribute towards an increasingly unsustainable planet that’s already starting to crack? Eat meat born of a mad scientists mind and made in a lab but much more sustainable? Or change to a healthy but potentially boring diet of just fruit and veg for the rest of your life? Here are some alternatives which offer a happy medium:
1) Meatless Mondays – this challenge provides you with the opportunity to make a small change to your diet without signing away your appetite. On Mondays we move from the freedom of the weekend and set our intentions for the next six days. This makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet. Find about more about the health benefits (including a reduced risk of contracting cancer, heart disease and diabetes), environmental benefits (including reducing your carbon footprint) and browse a range of inspiring recipes on the Meatless Monday website.
2) Fresh food Friday’s – similar to Meatless Monday’s but encourages you to get into the kitchen and cook you food from scratch. For just one day a week you can swear off shop brought sandwiches and ready meals and get creative and healthier.
3) Buy local, buy fresh, buy organic – source your meats from local butchers to support your local communities and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your meals. By buying fresh and organic foods you are reducing the levels of preservatives and chemicals entering your body and the environment. There are a range of website available which can help you source local farmers markets including the Guardian local shopping map, Local Foods and London’s Farmers Markets.
This is a guest post by Healthy Planet’s Logistics Executive Richard Wigley
Living next to a main road for most of my life taught me to respect the great outdoors, so I always appreciated and enjoyed wild excursions, camping and learning about flora and fauna.
After leaving college I went through 8 years of working in an eclectic array of jobs in the theatre, hospitality and bar industries.
I then decided on a career change and spoke to a Careers Guidance Counselor who reminded me of my love for the great outdoors. I then decided to pursue a job in conservation.
I have worked at Healthy Planet since November 2011 as a logistics executive. I deal with booking the deliveries for daily requests of books for our stores, requests from other independent organisations, ordering stock, setting up fire risk assessments, ordering the necessary fire equipment for each store, organizing access, to liaise and catch up with our dedicated volunteers, collecting quotes, stock taking and most importantly, making tea.
I love the attention to detail involved in this role, the budgeting of resources, when a delivery comes together and working with such a helpful and happy team. I am grateful for each day I come into the office and always with a smile on my face, unless someone has “borrowed” my pens. Or my chair.