These days, cheap meat is easy to find. There’s burgers, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and deli meat – just to name a few. Everything is extremely convenient, but how does it affect the planet? According to scientists, the answer isn’t pretty.
As humans, we’re powerful. We’ve built farms, machines, and entire cities. Food can be grown like clockwork. It’s all in the name of industrialization, but it’s done more harm than good. We’ve now become the greatest force of nature. To understand our impact, take the time to learn about the one main thing. The Anthropocene.
What Is The Anthropocene?
The Anthropocene is an epoch or a part of the geological timescale. It’s longer than an age but shorter than a period. We’ve been in the Holocene epoch, but many scientists argue that it’s actually been the Anthropocene for quite some time.
Specifically, the beginning of industrialization around 1800 supposedly marked the beginning. The population also grew six-fold between 1800 and 2000. With that, of course, came the rise of industrial farming.1
Problems Of Industrial Farming
Industrial farming is done on a very large scale. It uses a major input of energy and resources to make even more input. The process yields tons of crops and livestock, but not without a price. Water, soil, and air all take a hit.
There’s also an emphasis on quantity, not quality. Chemicals and practices are never chosen with the Earth in mind. Moreover, industrial farming produces fast, cheap meat. The more humans eat this food, the more industrial farming will thrive.
Effects Of Industrial Farming
1. Greenhouse Gases
Did you know that livestock releases more emissions than transportation? During digestion, farm animals give off greenhouses gases like methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. Even their waste emit these toxins.
The effect continues when meat is slaughtered and processed. Plus, to make food, deforestation is used. It’s yet another major source of greenhouse gases. Aside from contributing to poor air quality, greenhouse gases are associated with climate change. It proves the impact of us humans.2
Pesticides don’t just affect plants. Animals need to eat, too! Traditional grass feed is now often replaced with pesticide-ridden corn and soybeans. In 2000 to 2001, half of the country’s pesticide usage went to the production of industrial grain fed. It may control pests, but pesticides are chemicals. This means trouble for the balance and dynamics of the environment.3
Industrial farming highly depends on antibiotics. They’re used to promote growth and treat diseases, but 30 to 90% are released in animal waste. The environment soaks it right up. Most antibiotics don’t degrade. This harms the bacterial balance of the environment, marine life, and human health.4
4. Loss Of Biodiversity
With agricultural development comes a loss of biodiversity. It’s expected when something is planted over and over again. Top it off with repeated chemical use, and you have less of a diverse habitat. Everything in a food chain will suffer. After all, if certain species aren’t around, other species won’t have food.5
Cheap meat doesn’t stop at beef and pork. Poultry feed includes antibiotics, including arsenic. Its metabolites, unfortunately, are toxic to both humans and the environment.6
We can’t turn back time or stop industrial farming. However, ditching the processed cheap meat is a great start. If you do eat meat, buy from local farmers who use traditional, environmentally-friendly methods. Reach for more plants. Buy produce from the farmer’s market, or better yet, grow your own.
|↑1||Steffen, Will, Paul J. Crutzen, and John R. McNeill. “The Anthropocene: are humans now overwhelming the great forces of nature.” AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 36, no. 8 (2007): 614-621.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑4, ↑5, ↑6||Halden, Rolf U., and Kellogg J. Schwab. Environmental impact of industrial farm animal production. Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, 2008.|