Food production creates an inevitable strain on the environment.

Your daily food choices can greatly affect the general sustainability of your diet.

Though vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be more environmentally friendly, not everyone wants to offer up eating meat altogether.

This article covers a number of the main effects of food production on the environment, also as the way to eat both meat and plants more sustainably.

In short, here’s the way to be an ethical omnivore.

Environmental impact of food

With the assembly of food for human consumption comes an environmental cost.

The demand for food, energy, and water continues to rise with the rise within the world’s population, resulting in increased stress on our planet.

While the demand for these resources can’t be avoided altogether, it’s important to become educated about them to form more sustainable decisions surrounding food.

Agricultural land use

One of the most modifiable factors when it involves agriculture is land use.

With half the world’s habitable land now getting used for agriculture, land use plays an enormous role within the environmental impact of food production.

More specifically, certain agricultural products, like livestock, lamb, mutton, and cheese, take up the bulk of the world’s agricultural land.

Livestock account for 77% of worldwide farming land use, when grazing pastures and land wont to grow animal feed are taken into consideration.

That said, they only structure 18% of the world’s calories and 17% of the world’s protein.

As more land is employed for industrial agriculture, wild habitats are displaced, disrupting the environment.

On a positive note, agricultural technology has drastically improved throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries.

This improvement in technology has increased crop yield per unit of land, requiring less agricultural land to supply an equivalent amount of food.

One step we will take toward creating a sustainable food system is avoiding the conversion of forest land to agriculture land.

You can help by joining a land preservation society in your area.

Greenhouse gases

Another major environmental impact of food production is greenhouse gases, with food production making up about one-quarter of global emissions.

The main greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.

Greenhouse gases are one of the major purported factors responsible for climate change.

Of the 25% that food production contributes, livestock and fisheries account for 31%, crop production for 27%, land use for 24%, and the supply chain for 18%.

Considering that different agricultural products contribute varying amounts of greenhouse gases, your food choices can greatly affect your carbon footprint, which is the total amount of greenhouse gases caused by an individual.

Keep reading to find out some ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying many of the foods you love.

Water use

While water could seem like an infinite resource for many folks , many areas of the planet experience water scarcity.

Agriculture is liable for about 70% of freshwater use worldwide.

That said, different agricultural products use varying amounts of water during their production.

The most water-intensive products to supply are cheese, nuts, farmed fish and prawns, followed by dairy cows.

Thus, more sustainable agricultural practices present an excellent opportunity to regulate water use.

Some samples of this include the utilization of drip irrigation over sprinklers, capturing rainwater to water crops, and growing drought-tolerant crops.

Fertilizer runoff

The last major impact of traditional food production I would like to say is fertilizer runoff, also mentioned as eutrophication.

When crops are fertilized, there’s potential for excess nutrients to enter the encompassing environment and waterways, which successively can disrupt natural ecosystems.

You may think that organic farming might be an answer to the present , but that’s not necessarily the case.

While organic farming methods must be freed from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, they’re not totally chemical-free.

Thus, switching to organic products doesn’t entirely solve the problems of runoff.

That said, organic products are shown to possess less pesticide residue than their conventionally farmed counterparts.

While you can’t directly change fertilizer practices of farms as a consumer, you’ll advocate for more environmentally friendly options, like the utilization of canopy crops and planting trees to manage runoff.

SummaryWith the production of food for human consumption comes a variety of environmental impacts. The main modifiable impacts of food production include land use, greenhouse gases, water use, and fertilizer runoff.

Ways to eat more sustainably

Here are some ways in which you can eat more sustainably, including when it comes to meat consumption.

Does eating local matter?

When it involves reducing your carbon footprint, eating local may be a common recommendation.

While eating local seems to form sense intuitively, it doesn’t appear to possess the maximum amount of an impression on sustainability for many foods as you’d expect — though it’s going to offer other benefits.

Recent data shows that what you eat is far more important than where it comes from, as transportation only makes up a little amount of a food’s overall greenhouse emission emissions.

This means that choosing a lower emission food, like poultry, over a way higher emission food, like beef, features a bigger impact — no matter where the foods have traveled from.

That being said, one category during which eating local may reduce your carbon footprint is with highly perishable foods, which require to be quickly transported thanks to their short shelf lives.

Oftentimes, these foods are air-freighted, significantly increasing their overall emissions by up to 50 times quite transportation by sea.

These mainly include fresh fruits and vegetables, like asparagus, green beans, berries, and pineapples.

It’s important to notice that only a really bit of the food supply travels by air — most are transported via large ships or on trucks overland.

That said, eating local may produce other benefits, like supporting local producers using more sustainable farming practices, eating with the seasons, knowing exactly where your food is coming from, and the way it had been produced.

Moderate red meat consumption

Protein-rich foods, like meats, dairy, and eggs, structure about 83% of our dietary emissions.

In terms of overall carbon footprint, beef and lamb are highest on the list.

This is thanks to their extensive land use, feeding requirements, processing, and packaging.

In addition, cows produce methane in their guts during the digestion process, further contributing to their carbon footprint.

While red meats produce about 60 kg of CO2 equivalents per kg of meat — a standard measure of greenhouse emission emissions — other foods structure significantly less.

For example, poultry farming produces 6 kg, fish 5 kg, and eggs 4.5 kg of CO2 equivalents per kg of meat.

As a comparison, that’s 132 pounds, 13 pounds, 11 pounds, and 10 pounds of CO2 equivalents per pound of meat for red meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, respectively.

Therefore, eating less meat can significantly decrease your carbon footprint.

Buying grass-fed meat from sustainable local producers may slightly decrease greenhouse emission emissions, but the info shows that decreasing meat consumption, generally , has more of an impression.

Eat more plant-based proteins

Another impactful thanks to promote being an ethical omnivore is by eating more plant-based protein sources.

Foods like tofu, beans, peas, quinoa, hemp seeds, and nuts have a significantly lower carbon footprint in comparison with most animal proteins.

While the nutritional content of those plant proteins can differ greatly in comparison with animal proteins, protein content are often matched with the acceptable portion sizes.

Including more plant-based protein sources in your diet doesn’t mean you’ve got to totally eliminate animal foods.

One way to scale back what proportion animal protein you eat is by subbing out one-half of the protein during a recipe with a plant-based one.

For example, when making a standard chili recipe, swap out half the minced meat for tofu crumbles.

This way you’ll get the flavor of the meat, but you’ve got reduced the quantity of animal protein, successively reducing the carbon footprint of that given meal.

Reduce food waste

The last aspect of becoming an ethical omnivore i would like to debate is reducing garbage .

Globally, garbage accounts for six of greenhouse emission production.

While this also takes under consideration losses throughout the availability chain from poor storage and handling, tons of this is often food throw away by retailers and consumers.

Some practical ways for you to scale back garbage are:

  • buying frozen fruits and vegetables if you don’t plan on using them within the next few days
  • buying vacuum-sealed frozen fish, as fish has one of the shortest shelf lives of all meats
  • using all edible parts of fruits and vegetables (e.g., stems of broccoli)
  • shopping the rejected produce bin if your local supermarket has one
  • not buying more food than you need for a given time period
  • checking dates on perishable food items before buying
  • planning your meals for the week so you know exactly what to buy
  • freezing perishable foods that you won’t use within the next day or two
  • organizing your fridge and pantry so you know what you have
  • making stock from leftover bones and vegetables
  • getting creative with recipes to use up various foods you have sitting around

Another additional advantage of reducing garbage is that it also can prevent tons of cash on groceries.

Try implementing a number of the methods above to start out reducing garbage and your carbon footprint.

SummaryThough emissions from food production can’t be eliminated, there are numerous ways to cut down on them. The most impactful ways to do this include moderating red meat consumption, eating more plant-based proteins, and reducing food waste.

The bottom line

Food production is liable for a big amount of worldwide emissions through land use, greenhouse gases, water use, and fertilizer runoff.

While we can’t avoid this altogether, eating more ethically can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

The main ways to try to to so include moderating meat consumption, eating more plant-based proteins, and reducing garbage.

Being aware of your decisions surrounding food can go an extended way toward furthering a sustainable food environment for years to return.

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