Summary: Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler
A comparison of meat and oil
Adverse effects of meat factories on the environment, human health and animals themselves
Remedies to negative consequences of meat factories
Consumer awareness of costs of industrial meat production
Reconciling environmental protection and demand for animal products
The article ‘Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler’ was written by Mark Bittman and published in The New York Times in 2008. It talks about production of meat in meat factories, its disadvantages and possible remedies. Meat and oil share several characteristics; both are subsidized by the federal government, increasing demand and overconsumption. Demand for meat globally has grown by unprecedented levels. Americans’ consumption of meat has increased by 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. This is due to increase in wealth as well as the increase in meat factories. Total meat supply in the world had doubled since the 1960s, and is expected to double further by 2050. Meat prices have mostly held steady and even price spikes are not expected to affect demand.
The effects of these meat factories are adverse, release of greenhouse gases, pollution of water bodies, and consumption of huge quantities of grain that has led to destruction of rainforests to grow crops. More meat production means a higher demand for feed like grains. Most of the soy and corn grown in the world feeds livestock, despite the fact that about 800 million people suffer from malnutrition worldwide. Animal factories produce about a fifth of total greenhouse gases, which is higher than levels produced by the transport industry.
Mass growing of grain to feed livestock in meat factories cause water quality problems in rivers and streams. Such a diet increased the efficiency of mass production and confinement. Antibiotics administered to livestock in these factories have caused cases of antibiotic resistance in human beings. Other consequences on the health of humans include causing cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
There are several measures that can be put in place to remedy the many problems caused by meat consumption and production especially in meat factories. The first is better waste management. Removal of subsidies by the federal government would also go a long way. Better farming practices such as livestock breeding would reduce the detrimental effects of meat farming. Technology is another area that must be explored. In vitro production of meat is a real possibility in the future. Animal waste can be used to generate electricity. Grazing is a viable alternative as well, although it would reduce production capacities by a big margin.
In order to make real changes to industrial meat farming, consumers need to be made aware of the real costs such as degradation of water bodies and dumping of wastes. Animal welfare should also be a concern in large meat factories where animals are confined. It is also more worthwhile to use grain to feed starving fellow human beings over livestock. Other effects such as deforestation, diseases, and climate change should also be enough to shift consumers towards more plant and less animal consumption.
Public relations exercises such as those against cigarettes can be effective. Consumers should be encouraged to preserve their environment while prioritizing their health and making the planet a better place. The demand for animal products and environmental protection can be resolved. There have already been positive steps such as Americans choosing to purchase organic foods and meat and dairy products that have been produced sustainably.