The Dangerous Rise of Global Meat Consumption
Most people in the world today consume meat on a daily basis. This was not the case a century ago, with more people following vegetarian diets and meat being a weekly or even monthly delicacy in certain parts of the world. Since the 1960s, global meat consumption has been rising at an alarming rate, with an estimated increase of up to 500%. This is mainly attributed to population growth and rising incomes in developing nations where meat is not central to the traditional diet, like in India. Increased consumption of meat also means an increase in demand, followed by an increase in production which can be dangerous for both the environment and human health.
Different animal products produce different amounts of environmental risk. The leading cause of global warming is industrial cattle farming, which includes dairy production. The beef industry creates vast amounts of greenhouse gases and requires a high-water input, making it very harmful for the environment especially at the scale at which meat is consumed in the 21st century. Heavy pollution is also caused by these processes. Commercial fishing doesn’t require the same hefty inputs as other meats but is one of the leading causes of plastic pollution in the ocean.
Other sources of meat like poultry, pork and mutton have less environmental impact, but can still be dangerous for human health if overconsumed. The condition of the facilities that meat is produced and packaged in is essential to its impacts on our health. These facilities often act as breeding grounds for disease and bacteria, and is famously the origin of COVID-19. Some animals, especially poultry, are pumped with antibiotics and steroids to avoid these situations, but this still impacts our health as the chemicals from these animals then enter the human body and can cause other non-viral ailments.
Within the last century, because meat consumption has increased tenfold only within a few generations, our diets and nutritional balances have changed vastly in a limited amount of evolutionary time. Many of our ancestors used to only eat plant-based foods on a seasonal basis until an animal was captured by hunters every few weeks, however this varies based on where in the world you are from. The quick shift of primarily plant-based to carnivorous diets occurred faster than we can evolve, therefore might have consequences on the human body. Many scientists believe that heavy consumption of red meat specifically can increase the risk of cancer later in life, especially when we are not living the outdoorsy and active lifestyles that our ancestors did.
Luckily, plants offer other protein sources that are much healthier for the human body and the environment. In fact, vegan diets are known to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by half compared to meat and dairy eaters. From legumes to soybean products, there are a plethora of available plant-based protein sources, including HerbYvore’s pea paneer, which provides sufficient protein, fat, calcium, and fiber, all while using less than half of the resources than cow products. HerbYvore’s pea paneer acts as a sustainable and safe alternative to meat, so consider swapping out a carnivorous meal this week for a healthy plant-based pea paneer dinner.