Here’s the problem:
“More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production,” a United Nations report, released in May, 2019, says.
In the US alone, cropland occupies about one-fifth of U.S. land and most of that is used for livestock feed. An additional one-third is used for pasture. There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows. Between cropland — used to produce feed — and pastures, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.
Trees and forests are a powerful force for climate mitigation. As more forests are cleared for agriculture — mainly to grow soy, raise cattle and produce palm oil — greenhouse gas emissions increase as a byproduct of nitrogen fertilizer and methane from cattle and sheep. Additionally, deforestation eliminates trees which are “breathing in” CO2 and “breathing out” moisture. This releases the carbon dioxide stored in forests.
The overwhelming majority of the clearing in the Amazon is to make way for cattle and crops that feed cattle.
Based on a UN Food & Agriculture study (2013) it is estimated that the total annual emissions from animal agriculture (production emissions plus land-use change) were about 14.5 percent of all human emissions, of which beef contributed 41 percent. If global demand for beef, goats & sheep grows by 88 percent between 2010 and 2050 (as it is estimated to do), the resulting deforestation could increase global emissions enough to put the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F) out of reach.
Some of the Solutions:
If we improve the way we raise cattle by improving management practices like rotational grazing, productivity and soil health can be boosted while reducing emissions. This means that cattle should be pasture raised, trampling over vegetation and pushing nutrients into the soil. Cow manure then acts as a natural fertilizer reducing the need for unsustainable tilling practices and dangerous synthetic fertilizers.
If we eat ½ the amount of burgers we are currently consuming it would nearly eliminate the need for additional agricultural expansion (and associated deforestation), even in a world with 10 billion people.
39% of Americans say they want to eat more plant-based foods. Dozens of organizations across the globe have joined Cool Food pledging to make that possible in their facilities. Now serving 800+ million meals annually, hotels, restaurants, hospitals and company cafeterias are offering consumers more of what they want while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030.