Report calls for eating less beef to create sustainable food future

The world’s food supply is in danger of imploding, because it’s not a sustainable system, and it will take all of us cutting back on beef consumption in order to make sure that it is sustainable into the future.

More and more trees are being cleared for new pasture every year to keep up with the increasing demand for beef. But the problem with that is that we need trees to produce oxygen and absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Reducing our consumption of beef would not only help solve that problem, it would mitigate the coming food crisis on the horizon because eating less beef means less cattle need to be raised for slaughter, meaning less resources need to be used to raise them.

It takes a lot of resources to raise cattle. To produce just one pound of beef, it takes 2,400 gallons of water, which is a lot considering climate change is threatening our water resources. In contrast, it only takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat.

And 70 percent of grains grown in the United States alone are used to feed livestock.

In the grand scheme of things, eating more grains, fruits and vegetables would be far more sustainable than eating beef.

That’s why the World Resources Institute is calling upon everyone to cut their consumption of beef, especially in the United States, where people eat more beef than anyone else.

“We must produce more food, but we must also slow the rate of growth in demand – especially demand for resource-intensive foods such as beef,” the report says.

“Ruminant livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats) use two-thirds of global agricultural land and contribute roughly half of agriculture’s production-related emissions,” the report continues. “Ruminant meat demand is projected to grow by 88 percent between 2010 and 2050. Yet, even in the United States, ruminant meats (mostly beef) provide only 3 percent of calories. Closing the land and GHG [greenhouse gas emissions] mitigation gaps requires that, by 2050, the 20 percent of the world’s population who would otherwise be high ruminant-meat consumers reduce their average consumption by 40 percent relative to their consumption in 2010.”

According to CNN, that means Americans should cut their average beef consumption from 59 pounds a year to just 23 pounds.

That may seem difficult, but people could still eat one or two burgers a week or just one 6 ounce steak. Not only will you be healthier, you’ll be reducing the stress on the food supply and the environment.

“Despite the many obstacles to be overcome, we believe that a sustainable food future is achievable” the World Resource Institute wrote. “But such a future will only be achieved if governments, the private sector, and civil society act upon the entire menu quickly and with conviction.”

Again, it’s going to hard, but it has to be done. Nobody actually needs to eat so much beef every year. And there are plenty of alternatives out there and certainly a variety of other foods to substitute for beef. We just need to have the will to change our eating habits.

Feature Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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