Seeing as we've been given to meat-eating discussions of late
, it seems appropriate to mention today's Green Lantern post
, which answers the question of which meat products do the most environmental harm. The Lantern cites both Michael Pollan's recent work
and a 2006 United Nations study
, which found that the cattle industry "uses more land than any other human activity; it's also one of the largest contributors to water pollution and a bigger source of greenhouse-gas emissions than all the world's trains, planes, and automobiles combined."From the post:A recent report for Defra, the British government's environmental authority, compared common animal products across seven categories: use of energy, pesticides, land, and nonrenewable resources; and impacts on global warming, acidification, and eutrophication (a kind of water pollution in which excess nutrients lead to fish-killing algae blooms). Beef and lamb got the poorest marks of all meats in terms of energy usage, global warming, and eutrophication. Beef also used the most land, had the highest acidification impacts, and came close to the bottom in the remaining categories.
According to the Lantern, the red meat is the most serious offender (beef being worst among the group, which also includes lamb and goat meat). Pork, which is sometimes classified as red meat and sometimes not, isn't quite as bad as beef. Chicken and turkey are less bad than pork. But all the industries have pretty substantial environmental impacts.I'm only one week into my pledge to go without red meat
(a decision motivated in part by our own water footprint research
) and this information makes me feel decent about the decision. Full disclosure: I had ground turkey on Saturday night, but other than that, I've briefly transitioned to a more holistically vegetarian diet, albeit with the occasional fish, and plan to maintain that. While I don't think I've had my last bite of meat ever-it's tough to imagine a cheeseburger ever ceasing to water my mouth-I am excited by the ease of my switch, the prospect of many more meatless weeks to come, and the idea of cultivating a more engaged relationship with the food I consume.Photo (CC) by Flickr user mr. toaster.