Being a vegetarian can be really annoying. There are rarely any good food options at your favorite restaurants, your friends all judge you because you are so damn picky, and the easiest and cheapest things to grab on the go are usually packed with carbs and calories galore! But research shows that eating a green and healthy diet not only saves animals, but it is also better for the environment.
Because animal-based foods typically require more energy to make and emit more greenhouse gasses, experts say that throwing away meat waste is way worse for the environment than vegetable or grain waste. Think about the restaurants we eat in, the hotels we stay in or even the meals we make in our own kitchens. Every day, we waste a lot of food and a lot of that food is meat.
How much waste is a lot of waste? According to the Department of Agriculture, consumers were responsible for more than 12.7 billion pounds of meat waste in 2010.And that is just the actual meat that is wasted. Think about the fuel, land, feed and the water wasted as well.
According to Peta,"Meat-eaters are responsible for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day as vegetarians and about two and a half times as many as vegans." The animals that we raise to eat consume more than half of all water used in the U.S. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. That is a huge difference.
5. When You Chuck It, You Are Not Just Throwing Away The Meat
Ronald McGarvey is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department. In a recent interview with The Huffington Post, he broke down how meat waste negatively impacts the environment: “When you throw away that pound of beef, you’re essentially throwing away all of the embodied resources that were needed to generate that meat."
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), meat waste makes up 21 percent of food waste’s global carbon footprint, and that number is not getting any smaller anytime soon. The FAO estimates that by 2050, meat demand will increase by 173 percent.
There have been multiple studies that show that meat waste is responsible for the greatest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and use more energy than plant-based food.
McGarvey and his colleague Christine Costello published a study that compared estimated greenhouse gas emissions of the foods that were wasted in both the kitchen and dining hall after several meals at the University of Missouri. The “meat and protein” category was not the greatest amount of waste in weight but was still responsible for the giving off the most greenhouse gas emissions.
In another study, researchers studied the amount of energy used and greenhouse gas emissions of food items that were being produced and transported to a port in Sweden. They also found that animal-based foods used more energy and emitted more greenhouse gases than plant-based foods.
So what do we do? Do we have to all give up meat and become vegetarians? What if we refuse to give up eating burgers or a nice juicy steak? Well, here is some good news. It looks like you can start by just cutting back a little.
McGarvey says, “Try to err on the low side for meats and have your ‘just in case’ overproduction in plant-based foods. And of course, don’t throw away leftovers, but especially not meat leftovers!”
So, if you're going to buy meat to cook, only buy what you will actually eat. But moral of the story is: Eat more vegetables.
Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely, and the USDA recommends cutting up your meat into smaller pieces when you freeze them. If you are worried about keeping your frozen foods fresh, refer to these storage times to make sure your frozen meat doesn’t lose its quality.
So you don’t have to give up meat just yet, but it is something to think about. Be more cautious and think about the future. We all want to leave this world a better place for our kids and for future generations to come.