Health + Planet

Your Diet Choices & Planetary Health

Agriculture and food is the „elephant in the room” when it comes to today’s global challenges like climate change, (loss of) biodiversity, deforestation, water shortage and so on (many more).

For example, in the last 40, 50 years we turned our planet into a gigantic livestock factory farm which had and still has a huge (devastating) effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

The carbon footprint of our food system is equally “bad” as energy production (electricity / heat). Both contribute 25% of all CO2 emissions each. Transportation comes next (16%) and some of that is actually transporting “food items” globally.

But it’s getting even worse, the agriculture and food sector is responsible for more than 60% of the methane gas output. Methane is responsible for 16% of all greenhouse gases (CO2 76%), but CH4 has more than 80 times the “warming power” of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. Even though CO2 has a longer-lasting effect, methane is much more aggressive and sets the pace for warming in the near term.

So, yes, looking into how to save or be more efficient about electricity, gas or heat is absolutely crucial but the actual power to make a real difference is right in front of you, on everyone’s plate.

Even better, regenerative agriculture / organic farming is a real “CO2 sucker”, using CO2 as “feed” for the soil and its billions of inhabitants. So when buying “organic foods” you actually contribute to “reversing” climate change :-).

And 50% of the agricultural / food methane “output” is produced by “farting livestock”, especially from these horrible industrial farms as these (poor) animals get “unnaturally” fed with soy, wheat or even fish-waste, and their gut is not used to these kind of “food” and reacts accordingly disproportional.

Yes, you read correctly, cows, pigs, chicken and so on get also fed with (lots of) soy. More than 75% of the world’s soy production is fed to livestock for meat and dairy production.

To put it bluntly – The Amazon is burning because more space is needed to plant soy, but not for vegans or vegetarians, but for further animal feed!

When excluding grasslands and only taking account of land used for growing crops, more than 60% of arable land is used to produce animal feed instead of food for human consumption.

In total – Livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land, but it only produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories.

And it’s getting worse – for every 100 calories one puts as feed into an animal one only gets an “output” of 10-20 calories. Meaning – for every “real” meat burger one could serve 10 “plant based” burgers instead.  

In terms of “efficiency” all this doesn’t make much sense, does it. And if one throws in the devastating planetarian effects into the equation, everyone eating (much) less meat becomes a real “game changer” (and no-brainer).

But no need for missing totally out on a “good piece of meat”, just go locally organic, and double down on the multiple positive effects, because the “good poop” of pasture-raised animals is also an important part of organic farming, instead of “chemical fertilizers” which only ruin our soil, environment, biodiversity and health.

But there is another, equally urgent problem emerging – water shortage. To produce 1kg of meat, around 15.000 liters of freshwater is needed. In comparison, 1kg of salad only needs 500l. And even the so much scolded after almonds “only” need 5.000l per kg. And even that is too short-sighted because almonds do have a much better nutrition profile or old almond trees are re-used for biofuel and so (much) on.

So, yes, it’s important that you are trying to save water, eg. by taking less often a shower :-). But one shower only saves you 65 litres (average usage of water per shower). Whereas cutting your meat consumption into half would make a real difference. On average people in the Western hemisphere consume 60kg of meat per year. If you would cut that in half you’d save 450.000 litres of water, which equals to 7.000 “showers”.

And let’s stick with this “meat” calculation full circle – The production of 1 kg beef causes around 60 kg of greenhouse gases. The same quantity of CO2 is released when you burn about 25 liters of fuel. So again, you cut your meat consumption by half and you would save 750 liters of fuel per year. 750 liters allows for approx. 10.000km. Thus, for many, cutting your meat consumption just by half would result in saving a whole year’s mileage.

So besides the tremendous health benefits for your own (body & spirit), reducing your daily meat consumption to a weekly treat of organic quality “animal products” would have a major impact on our planetarian environment.

Rather take a shower more regularly again, eg. for societal benefits :-). Yep, “smell” will be an (hack) issue somewhen later too.

There is so much you can do – for your health, for animal welfare, for the planet. You are NOT helpless, you are not completely at mercy of “higher powers” like governments or other political institutions which often don’t seem to get their shit together.

You can and will make a huge difference starting with your very own food choices!

Meat in peace, Andreas

Your diet is a global bank account. Good food choices are good investments.

May the Force be with you!