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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