It is a paradox. On the one hand, the health, social and environmental risks of excessive meat consumption are well known, but on the other hand, there is not a single country in the world that has a strategy to eliminate meat consumption. Rather the opposite - meat consumption is growing and growing.
If it continues like this, another 40 million tons of meat will be added per year by 2029 and global meat production will grow to more than 360 million tons. It currently stands at 320 million tons and has therefore more than doubled in the last 20 years. These figures come from the 2021 Meat Atlas published by BUND and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. According to the study, we Germans ate 60 kg of meat per capita in 2019. Americans and Australians even reached 100 kg.
The consequences of consuming animal products are already devastating. The climate and biodiversity crisis will have a dramatic impact worldwide. Since the coronavirus pandemic, meat consumption and its negative effects on our health have increasingly become the focus of attention and show that something urgently needs to change.
Feed: soy for animals is causing rainforests to disappear
Enormous amounts of feed are needed to satisfy the population's appetite for meat. This is why over a third of all crops worldwide end up in feed troughs. Soy in particular is an important source of protein for factory farming. Its share of international trade has increased more than fivefold since 2001. Almost 90% of the soy grown ends up in the stomachs of farm animals. The increasing demand requires more and more arable land. Around 70 % of agricultural land is used as pasture or for the cultivation of animal feed. Livestock farming and soybean cultivation together are the most common causes of global deforestation. From 2006-2017, for example, more than 60% of the area of Germany was cleared for this purpose in the Amazon rainforest and the Brazilian Cerrado savannah. The forest fires of recent years were just one consequence of this slash-and-burn. A worsening of the climate crisis, the loss of biodiversity, land conflicts and the violation of the rights of indigenous communities are further consequences. A rethink is not in sight. Brazil's deforestation rate rose to a record level in 2019 and - according to forecasts - is set to rise even further. The cultivation of animal feed also requires ever larger quantities of pesticides. In Brazil, for example, 52% of pesticides sold are used in soybean cultivation
Worsening climate crisis thanks to factory farming
Farm animals and the cultivation of animal feed significantly worsen our climate and contribute to global warming. The production and processing of animal feed and emissions from the digestive tracts of ruminants contribute to the fact that 56-58% of total greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector are caused by livestock farming. However, they only provide 37% of the protein and 18% of the calories consumed by the world's population. According to the Meat Atlas 2021, most meat producers do not report their emissions at all. Targets or measures to reduce them are also nowhere to be found. The five largest meat and dairy producers cause more emissions per year than an oil company (e.g. Shell or BP).
You can also read more about this in this blog post.
High water consumption puts a strain on the environment
Around 20 times more water is needed to produce one calorie from beef than from cereals or pulses. This enormous water consumption has serious consequences for regional rivers, wetlands and groundwater levels. Drained peatlands are increasingly being used for cattle farming, which is a particularly CO2-intensive form of farming
Use of antibiotics endangers human lives
Every year, 700. 000 people die every year as a result of antibiotic resistance
This number will increase significantly over the next few decades, as antibiotics are increasingly being used routinely in factory farming. The global market for veterinary medicines is growing by around 5-6% annually. Worldwide, 73% of all antibiotics sold are used in animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) sees serious risks to human health here. In the case of infectious diseases, bacteria can no longer be treated with antibiotics if they have previously developed resistance in animal husbandry. According to the Meat Atlas 2021, every second chicken meat sample today is already contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens
Source: Fleischatlas 2021 Facts and figures about animals as food. Heinrich Böll Foundation