If we don’t slash our meat consumption by at least 75%, our planet won’t be able to continue feeding us in the future. That’s according to a new study conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany.
The researchers from Bonn reviewed the implications that eating meat at current rates has on the environment and climate change. They also viewed the health and economic effects and the results were quite scary.
“If all humans consumed as much meat as Europeans or North Americans, we would certainly miss the international climate targets and many ecosystems would collapse,” said study co-author Prof. Dr. Matin Qaim in a statement.
Ukraine war driven shortages in cereal grains
As the study states, an average EU citizen currently consumes 176 pounds (80 kilos) of meat annually while the average US citizen consumes around 270 pounds (124 kilos) in the same period of time. As you can tell by now, the study’s conclusions are mainly targeted towards the richer countries of the world where meat consumption is unsustainably high.
“We therefore need to significantly reduce our meat consumption, ideally to 20 kilograms or less annually,” Qaim continued. “The war in Ukraine and the resulting shortages in international markets for cereal grains also underline that less grain should be fed to animals in order to support food security.”
Currently, around half of all grains produced worldwide are used as animal feed, but animals convert only a portion of the calories they are fed into meat. This also means meat production requires a large amount of land area that could be otherwise used for growing more sustainable crops.
A lot of meat means a lot of methane, and we can’t have that
According to the research, in some poorer regions of the world, animals might be the best and sometimes only source of high-quality proteins, but meat consumption in these areas is low anyway and therefore these regions are not really part of the pressing global problem.
Methane, of course, is another major issue when it comes to animal agriculture. According to the recent IPPC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, methane emissions must be reduced by 33% by 2030 in order for the world to have any chance of reversing the current climate situation. Livestock is responsible for about 44% of methane currently being released into the atmosphere.
Raising taxes on meat is unpopular…Or is it?
So what can be done? According to Qaim, governments should consider raising the taxes on animal products significantly. "That's certainly unpopular, especially since a ten- or twenty-percent surcharge probably wouldn't be enough, if it's supposed to have a steering effect," he says. "Meat, however, has a high environmental cost that is not reflected in current prices. It would be entirely reasonable and fair to have consumers share more of these costs.
On the bright side, a recent research conducted by Veylinx in the US showed that maybe the idea of raising taxes on meat products is not that unpopular. 37% of participants said they would support an extra 10% meat tax to cut consumption. The younger generation might be even more willing to pay extra for meat, with 63% of Gen Z participants supporting the idea.
We are here as usual to say that until the governments of the world take action, there’s an easy, healthy, inexpensive and immediate action that each and every one of us can take to slash global meat consumption, and hey, it can even be fun! Just go vegan! It’s not scary at all.