Report: Intensive meat production devouring land and raw materials

The current industrialised meat and dairy production system is "untenable" and needs a radical rethink to reduce its impact on the environment, according to a new report.

Published today by Friends of the Earth Europe and the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the report says that since the current system depends on scarce land and water resources, meat and dairy production is having an increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment.

The Meat Atlas aims to catalyse the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming. It also advocates clear individual and political solutions and calls for a loosening of corporate control over food.

Heinrich Boell Foundation president Barbara Unmüßig said: “Intensive meat production isn’t just torture for animals. It destroys the environment, and devours great chunks of our raw materials which we import from the global South as animal feed.

“After China, Europe is the biggest importer of soya. Argentina and Brazil are dramatically increasing their soya cultivation, and it’s being fed almost exclusively to the animals we slaughter. Rising meat consumption is forcing up land prices,” he added.

According to the report, this has devastating consequences with almost a third of the world’s land being used to grow animal feed.

It also claims that small farmers are “losing their land and their livelihoods”.

“That schnitzel on our plates jeopardises the food security of many people in the global South,” said Boell.

Outlining the impact of intensive meat and dairy production on freshwater usage and land, the report finds that worldwide agriculture consumes 70% of available freshwater, one third of which goes towards raising livestock.

According to the Meat Atlas, the increasingly intensive livestock sector is also one of the largest consumers of land and edible crops, with more than 40% of the annual output of wheat, rye, oats and maize used for animal feed, and with one third of the world’s 14 billion hectares of cultivated land used to grow it.

The report highlights the significant amounts of land and resources needed to produce meat. For example, a kilo of beef requires 15,500 litres of water – the same amount required to produce 12 kilos of wheat or 118 kilos of carrots. It also claims that to make a hamburger more than 3.5 square metres of land is required.

Friends of the Earth Europe senior food campaigner Adrian Bebb said: “Diet is no longer a private matter. Every time we eat, we are making a political choice, and we are impacting upon the lives of people around the world, on the environment, biodiversity and the climate.

“Huge amounts of resources go into the food on our plates. Sustainable alternatives exist to the dominant destructive, corporate-controlled and intensive global system for producing and consuming meat,” added Bebb.

The growing global demand for meat is a serious concern and despite European and American levels of consumption stagnating, the growing economies, such as Asia, will see around an 80% increase in demand for meat and dairy products by 2022.

Leigh Stringer

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