Practical Issues > Health - Index > Planet
Eating As Though the Environment Mattered

Imagine taking 6-20 plates of food and dumping them in the trash, perfectly fresh and edible. Off they go to the landfill. Obviously, none of us would behave so wastefully.

And yet that's precisely the effect each time any of us consumes meat, since the vast majority of the calories consumed by a chicken, pig, or other animal goes into keeping that animal alive (or into producing bones, blood, and other parts humans don't consume). Only a small fraction of those calories is turned into flesh.

And that's just the pure "calories in, calories out" equation. When you factor in all the extra stages of production that are required for meat relative to grains and legumes, the anti-environmental nature of meat consumption becomes even more stark: First, you have to grow many times more corn, grain, and soy (with all the required tilling, irrigation, crop dusters, poisons, and so on), than would be required if we ate the plants directly. Then you have to transport all that grain and soy to feed manufacturers, in gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing 18-wheelers. Then you have to operate the feed mill (again, using massive amounts of resources), truck the feed to the factory farms, operate the factory farms, truck the animals many miles to slaughterhouses, operate the slaughterhouses, truck the meat to processing plants, operate the meat processing plants, truck the meat to grocery stores (in refrigerated trucks), and keep the meat in refrigerators or freezers at the stores.

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