Pollution: It’s What’s for Dinner

Americans eat a lot of meat; according to an article in the New York Times, we represent less than one-twentieth of the world’s population and eat about one-sixth of the meat produced globally.  Do we really need to eat that much meat?  (A healthy adult who has one cup of milk and two eggs with breakfast, and a scoop of beans with lunch needs no more than 4-ounce of meat with dinner to meet their daily protein needs.)

According to USDA statistics 6.7 million cows,  1.1 million hogs, and 8.6 billion chickens were slaughtered in the United States in 2011 alone.  Understandably, farming on this scale creates a host of environmental problems  Here are three to consider:

The Impact on Air Quality
Large, industrial farms produce gasses that and are harmful to human health and that contribute to global warming.  Agriculture generates to about 8% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year  (not including emissions created when food is transported to supermarkets and other retailers).

Contamination of Our Water Supplies (pictured above)
The runoff from large, industrial farms (manure, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers) is contaminating water supplies, killing fish, and disrupting marine ecosystems.  And, manure often contains antibiotics and growth hormones (not something I want in my water!)

The Negative Effects on Soil Health
Manure also contains salt (which can damage soil quality and contribute to erosion) and heavy metals (which, when applied in excess, reduce soil fertility).  Large, factory farms produce and use so much manure that it becomes a serious soil pollutant.

The bad news; these are only a few of the problems that our meat-centric diet creates.  The good news; American meat consumption is starting to decline and you can help by eating less meat.  Sure, reducing meat consumption is only a small part of the solution but one person, pledging to give up as little as one 6-ounce serving of meat per day can have a huge impact.

Get 320 people to give up 6 ounces of pork per day (for example)  and you eliminate the need to raise one hog (and the 17.5 pounds of waste it produces).  Better yet, get one out of every 981 Americans (that’s less than 1% of the population) to give up 6 ounces of pork per day and you eliminate 6 million pounds of hog waste in one year.

What about you? Will you be part of the 1%?