Found a couple interesting articles on the environmental impacts of eating meat today. First, from Wired, an argument that eating meat is an ethical issue because of its impacts on the global food supply. Livestock require lots of food to eat and big areas to hang out in, so that prompts deforestation, decreases farmland, and drives up grain prices. There are plenty of other things driving up food prices (corn-based ethanol, argh), but the rising demand for meat is certainly one of them. After describing food riots in a dozen countries:
Even before this crisis, food experts said the world could not feed itself in coming decades if growing populations in developing countries insisted on a meat-rich western diet. That time may already have arrived — and largely without climate-change induced agricultural disruption. Add droughts and years of failing harvests, and things get seriously scary.
So maybe it’s time for taste to take a back seat to conscience. I know that sacrificing meat for veggies won’t solve the problem on its own, but it’s certainly just as meaningful as using compact fluorescent bulbs or cloth shopping bags, and I do that without hesitation.
I dig. Fauxsage for dinner it is.
Ok, so cut back on the meat, check. And when we do get meat, organic free range meat is neat! Right? No. The BBC makes a case that organically raised beef and poultry might produce more greenhouse gases, consume more food, and produce more waste that’s harder to clean up than livestock sequestered indoors.
Housing animals gives humans control. The diet can be precisely manipulated to maximise growth and minimise polluting gases.
Animals do not waste food energy on running about and keeping warm. Their manure can be collected and burned as a fuel, avoiding damaging evaporation and seepage into rivers.
In the future, it is hoped that sealed barns would have exhaust vents where the harmful gases could be captured before they entered the atmosphere.
This combination of precision husbandry and species advantage is what puts commercial indoor poultry sheds at the top of the climate chart.
Peter Bradnock of the British Poultry Council says: “Organic poultry meat has about 45% more global warming potential than indoor-reared poultry meat.
My first reaction: Well, *expletive*.
We have to keep the animals indoors and still for us to reduce emissions? But that makes them sick, and unhappy, and unhealthy, and and and. The way they raise non-organic pre-meats today, they inject them full of hormones and feed them weird stuff to fatten them up. Plus, do poultry farms really feed their birds to maximise growth AND minimize emissions already? Or are they just focused on maximizing growth? Most farms don’t have biomass heaters or other waste collection/conservation systems in place to actually get rid of the emissions: the article points out that they might, later. So for now, they’re just pumping the animals full of chemicals, and keeping them immobile in a barn so the greenhouse gases probably aren’t reduced, but they are all emitted from the same general area.
Do any of these environmentally friendly barns exist? And are the animals in them treated humanely?
With none of those questions really answered for now, I’ll have to pick my poison: emit more gases (maybe?), or eat healthier food. I’m sure the meat-makers, if they are interested in their carbon impact, will find a way to raise healthier meat in a less greenhouse-gas intensive way. Maybe that will be indoors. Maybe it will be humane. I’m not holding my fork.
Conclusion: I’ll keep buying hormone-free chicken, and free-range if I can find it. Same with beef. Until I find one animals from one of these wonderful indoor gas collection barns.