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Impacts of the Red Meat Industry on the Planet

Eating red meat is a normalized part of society today, and while it seems like it is impossible to survive without relying on it for sufficient meals, at this point, eating red meat is doing more harm than good. The meat industry has been slowly destroying our planet for a long time, and it is finally catching up to us. I know to steer away from your medium-well steak or your all-American hotdog seems scary and out of the question, but I promise it is easier than you think. There are other alternatives you can try, such as plant-based meat and soy meat. Once you get used to it, you won’t even be thinking about eating red meat. 

But why am I suggesting you stop consuming red meat? Like I mentioned before, the red meat industry is destroying our planet, and every person who stops supporting it makes all the difference. To further convince you that eating red meat is harmful and unnecessary, here are just a few of the many ways the industry is attacking our planet.

Woman holding \"Save Our Future\" sign
Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash

Contributions to Climate Change

Climate change is a big one. We are often under the impression that cars and other vehicles are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, but in reality, raising livestock and animal agriculture has that beat. While cars and other vehicles are responsible for 13% of these emissions, raising livestock is responsible for 18%. Animal agriculture supports more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined. To make matters worse, according to Michael Clark and David Tilman in their article from Nature in 2014, “emissions for agriculture [are] projected to increase to 80% by 2050.” 2050 may seem far off, but it is still in our lifetime and less than 30 years away. 

Generating Deforestation

If you have not heard, the infamous Amazon is being cut down and destroyed. Over 90% of the cause for this linked to animal agriculture and its resulting deforestation. Not only is the Amazon being destroyed, but millions of rainforests are getting cleared out to support raising livestock and other animal agriculture. It harms wildlife in so many ways as it leads to species becoming extinct, losing their homes, and so much more. 

Water Overuse

Agriculture uses an abundance of the water available on Earth, ranging from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. According to the United States Geological Service in 2005, at least half of this can be related to the meat industry. To produce just 1 pound of beef, the Water Footprint Network says that you need 2,500 gallons of water. Yes, read that again. Two thousand five hundred gallons of water for 1 pound of beef. Need I go on? 

Mistreatment of Animals and Species Extinction

Throughout animal agriculture, animals are killed and mistreated daily. Animals are used just for dairy and meat production and then killed once there is seemingly no more use for them. It has led to an abundance of species extinctions, and the numbers keep rising. 



In the US, livestock raising and production leads to over 116,000 pounds of waste per second. There are 3600 seconds in one day, so that means in one day over, 417,600,000 pounds of waste are produced in the US alone. The US General Accounting Office stated in 1999 that “1.4 billion tons of waste is formed from the meat industry annually” and that “5 tons of animal waste is produced per person in the US.” If that does not make you realize that one person makes a difference, I don’t know what will. 

For more facts and statistics, see cowspiracy.com. It provides further details and information on the circumstances I summarized as well as more details on what difference you can do and how. 

While it may be hard to go fully vegan or vegetarian, just cutting red meat out of your diet will make the difference. The planet is calling for help, and it is only fair we answer. 


Shira Blieden is a second-year Genetics and Genomics major at UCD with a Human Development minor. She enjoys reading, crocheting, and true-crime documentaries and podcasts. Her goal is to work in genetic counseling after she graduates.
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