Back to the Sunday roast – Ecological aspects of meat consumption
There is much discussion about meat consumption and its negative consequences in the media and with the public at large. Although the number of vegetarians and vegans is steadily rising, there is at the same time a continual increase in the demand for meat worldwide. The growing consumption of meat is accompanied by a number of disadvantages in health and ethical as well as ecological matters.
The ecological issues linked to the production of meat and other animal products include high greenhouse gas emissions, clearing rainforests as well as a high level of water consumption in regions where water is scarce. Greenhouse gases are mainly produced during animal digestive processes; the main animals responsible here are cattle. To satisfy the growing demand for meat, more land for the cultivation of animal feed needs to be made available. Deforestation of the rainforests is one impact. In addition, the cultivation of animal feed contributes considerably to global water consumption. Not only the irrigation of plants but also the watering of animals, their slaughtering and further processing require large quantities of water.
A first step to improving one’s individual personal climate balance can be by purchasing regional and ecologically produced meat products. Compared to conventionally produced products, they provide a better ecological balance. Selection of the meat type also makes a difference. Beef, both in terms of the CO2 balance as well as in water consumption per kilogram of meat, comes out the worst. Poultry has the smallest ecological footprint of all meat products. In the long run, however, everyone should consider if it is really necessary to have meat on the plate every day. Just as with previous generations who enjoyed a Sunday roast, meat should be considered less of an everyday food and cherished once again more as an exception and a treat.