Eating Local Meat is Actually More Sustainable than Veganism

Posted on Dec 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Caring about the environment is absolutely a noble cause, and one that we at Heartland Family Farms take seriously. However, if you follow environmental news at all, you’ll probably have heard that going vegetarian is one of the best ways to save the planet — and that’s a notion we want to help lay to rest.

Let me explain. First of all, let’s take a look at some of the research that has led to the notion that raising livestock is bad for the planet. A lot of this belief comes from a report published by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” The report, published in 2006, found that meat production comprised about 18 percent of humans’ carbon foodprint — more, even, than the transportation sector.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the University of California, Davis, refutes this claim. He points out that while livestock farming’s carbon emissions were monitored from start to end, the transportation sector’s were not. In fact, the UN researchers that published the report agreed with him, and asked him to join their task force moving forward.

Now, just because livestock farming and transportation have more equal carbon emission levels that we previously thought doesn’t mean livestock farming isn’t bad, right? Well, not necessarily. You may recall a recent study that sounded the alarm that vegan diets are actually kind of bad for the environment. While some people eat vegan for strictly moral reasons (and we’re not trying to dissuade anyone from their moral convictions), those whose primary concern is the environment may want to reconsider.

You see, a lot of it comes down to landmass. As Dr. Frank Mitloehner points out, American livestock farming technologies have majorly increased efficiency. This means that it takes one cow in America the same amount of time it would take 20 cows in India to produce the same amount of milk. And 20 cows cake up a lot more farmland (and generate a lot more methane) than one.

With our planet nearing a population of 9 billion people and deforestation already a tremendous problem, we can’t afford to clear more way for farmland. Increasing efficiency, therefore, becomes paramount to sustainability — and a vegan diet is actually not very sustainable at all.

“When applied to an entire global population, the vegan diet wastes available land that could otherwise feed more people,” QZ explains.

Finally, as you may recall if you’ve read Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” meat is much more calorie-dense than vegetables. One family could easily survive off of meat from one pasture-raised cow for an entire winter. Try to feed the family on veggies, though, which are much less calorie dense and therefore required in much higher masses, and you’ll use up a lot more energy.

So, eating meat that’s been reared efficiently may technically be more sustainable than a vegan diet. But what about animal welfare?

If you question factory farms’ ability to efficiently raise livestock while treating animals humanely, we don’t blame you. That’s why the best, most sustainable option is to purchase your meat from a family farm that you can trust

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