This post is part of Protein Angst, a series on the environmental and nutritional complexities of high-protein foods. Our goal is to publish a range of perspectives on these very heated topics. Add your feedback and story suggestions here.

A field of soybeans -- most of which are grown for animal feed. (Photo by Carol Vanhook.)

Now that we’ve touched on how much protein we need, let’s talk about how the production process behind high protein foods impacts the environment.

First, the big picture: While meat consumption has gone down slightly here in the U.S. in recent years, the rest of the world appears to be on the opposite track. Nearly half the protein eaten in the developed world comes from animals (compared to 28 percent of protein, worldwide) and, as incomes in larger developing nations like Brazil, India and China have picked up, so has the taste for meat.