It’s a little weird that no one on Gristmill has yet pointed to Mark Bittman’s stellar NYT piece on the environmental ravages of industrial meat. Philpott, where you at?
Anyway, it’s amazing. Go read it. Here’s a taste (ha ha):
Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word "raising" when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.
To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
As I’ve said before, meat has the distinction of being one of the few big contributors to ecological destruction that is almost entirely voluntary. Very few people have to eat meat, and nobody has to eat as much as the average American.
Yet the suggestion that people go without produces more resistance and vitriol than almost any other "green tip." It’s mysterious.
And just in case that doesn’t get the comments going, I’ll link back to my (hopefully definitive, for me anyway) take on vegetarianism.