The unsustainable ecological footprint of the meat industry

The concern for the environmental impact in the food sector is now fully in place. In addition to ethical values and social demands in the area of sustainability, a deep concern about the environmental pollution produced by the food industry is getting more important than ever.

The food sector is in the spotlight about the waste of resources derived from its productive system. With an industry based on improving performance rather than ecological efficiency, the consumption of natural resources and the high levels of environmental pollution resulting from their production processes have produced alarm in numerous consumer groups and NGO´s around the world.

The ecological footprint, a new concept for a new conception of the world

In this respect, the ecological footprint is positioned as the best indicator for measuring the impact of human activities on nature, relating it to the Earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate its resources.

Natural resources are limited, but if we continue the current course, we run the risk of depleting our most precious asset on Earth. According to a report by the NGO WWF, we are forcing the regenerative capacity of nature to unsuspected limits, in fact, to follow this course; humanity would need 2.5 Planets to meet its demand for resources in 2050.

The Meat industry in the spotlight of ecologists

Analyzing the data of the food sector, it is the meat industry who has the most alarming figures of the sector. According to a report by FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock sector has a key impact on climate change, contributing emissions estimated at 7.1 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year, representing 14.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These vertiginous figures make us aware of the reality of unsustainable production in the long term.

About this subject, we must focus on cattle breeding, since cattle breeding to supply the meat market are responsible for most of these emissions, as it contributes with 41% of the total emissions of the sector. The figures for pig meat and the poultry industry – which include both poultry and egg production – contribute 9% and 8% respectively. The strong growth expected in the coming years of this production will lead soon to an increase in the percentages and volumes of emissions beyond all sustainability. With the considerable increase in the population for the coming years (an estimated population of 9.6 billion people in 2050 if the forecasts are met), the demand for meat production is expected to increase CO2 emissions. In this context, the study carried out by the University of British Columbia, Canada, could be a good starting point in which it is pointed out that only adopting a vegetarian diet – by definition, food based on consumption of products where there is no animal sacrifice – would avoid the emission of 0.8 tonnes of greenhouse gases (tCO2) per person per year, that is, 5.84 million tonnes per year, a respite undoubtedly for the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

New habits in our environmental commitment

Other options around this idea have been emerging in the food market in the light of these new demands of a society that rejects animal slaughter and unsustainable practices with a planet exhausted in terms of waste generation. In this sense, technological advances have made possible the development of cultured meat, a type of sustainable meat of 100% natural origin that uses the use of the most advanced biotechnology to offer the consumer the possibility of combining the production of meat of animal origin, respect for animals and the environment.

Thanks to cutting-edge biotechnological advances, today we have in our hands a real chance of contributing to our habits to the improvement of environmental sustainability thanks to our role as consumers. The protection and care of Earth have never been so accessible to the citizen.

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