The meat industry contributes to roughly 14.5% of all GHG emissions - and this is very high. So when people say we need to lower the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from meat farming, they are absolutely right. However, we do not need to cut out our meat intake entirely to do this - eating less meat and making the meat we do eat more sustainable should be the way forward.
In actual fact, if all meat consumed was responsibly reared instead of industrially farmed, the GHG emissions associated with sustainable farming would be far less significant.
Here’s why industrial meat is so bad for the planet:
It causes deforestation. For example, in the Amazon, space is created for cattle ranching and growing animal feed, like soya, for farms back in the UK.
Deforestation worsens the problem of global warming because:
- Trees are essential for absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. If we cut them down, they can no longer help us
- The fallen trees are often left to rot on the forest floor or are burned, creating further emissions
- Rainforests produce their own rainfall, which keeps the whole forest alive. If deforestation continues at its current rate, rainforests won’t be able to sustain themselves – a loss of one of our biggest carbon stores.
Along with the energy-intensive machinery used in factory-farming (and the burning of fossil fuels to power them), the climate impact of meat is roughly equal to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world!
THIS is why people say, 'cut out meat to save the planet'. But in reality, all we need to do is steer demand away from industrial farms to the sustainable ones.
Eating grass-fed meat is part of the solution, not the problem
We also need to understand the difference between the animals that are part of the problem - the intensively produced poultry and dairy products - and those that are part of the solution, namely grass-fed cattle and sheep. The meats which require the most carbon-intensive methods are the ones which we need to take urgent action upon.
Other than being less carbon-intensive, why else are grass-fed meats part of the solution?
- Our UK climate is very good at growing grass. With two-thirds of British farmland only suitable for grassland, the most efficient way of turning this inedible grass into high-quality protein is to graze livestock
- Our grasslands also act as a large store of carbon and allow for lots of biodiversity
So, whenever you next hear someone say, ‘cut out meat to save the planet’, remember that changing the types of meat we consume and WHERE we buy them from is just as important as reducing meat intake as a whole.
Entirely cutting out meat from our diets implies that all farms are as bad as each other, which isn’t the case. At Saffron Alley, all of our beef and lamb are grass-fed, which you should buy with the knowledge that you are part of the solution, not the problem.