Sunday is Earth Day. Look at the data regarding raising our food and the environment. According to David Pimentel, Professor of Ecology and Agriculture Science at Cornell University, food and fiber crops cover 12% of the Earth’s total land area, 24% of the Earth’s area is used to graze livestock, and 87% of fresh water is consumed by the agriculture industry. One dairy cow produces 1,036 pounds of manure per week, contributing to ground water contamination and emits methane and nitrous oxide which harms the environment. It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef vs just 60 gallons of water to produce one pound of potatoes. Over 50% of the grain grown in the US is used to feed livestock. The grain used to feed livestock in the US could feed close to 800 million people and would help reduce world hunger. A majority of soil erosion is due to land used for growing crops. It takes 8 times more fossil fuel energy to produce animal protein vs plant protein.
Why does this matter and what can we do about it? It matters because methods used to raise agriculture animals are costly, are not sustainable, and contributing to many of our environmental problems. By modifying our eating habits, we can make a difference. A family of four not eating meat and cheese one day per week has the same environmental impact of having a car off the road for five weeks according to the Environmental Working Group. If everyone in the US refrained from eating meat or cheese just one day per week, it would be the equivalent to not driving 91 billion miles or having 7.6 million fewer cars on the road.