1. Think about meat & dairy products
You’ve probably seen the media articles about cutting down on meat and dairy products to reduce your food carbon footprint. (Here’s a recent one from The Guardian.) It’s a view that’s often shared in green living guides, because of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by cows in particular.
Ruminating animals like cows and sheep belch methane, which is much more potent than CO2 when it comes to trapping heat in our atmosphere. Where vast swathes of forest have been destroyed to provide grazing land for cattle, the climate impact of eating beef is even higher. There are now around a billion cows on the planet, and demand for meat and dairy products is expected to rise globally.
It’s one of the reasons for recent campaigns to encourage people to eat less meat, and for the rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets. The rapid increase in meat-free alternatives in supermarkets and restaurants has been astounding, as are the improvements in taste and texture! Check out veganuary.com or bosh.tv for some great vegan recipes.
On the other hand, grazing animals on existing pasture land can play a vital role in keeping soil healthy, if they are managed in the right way. Healthy soils capture and store carbon. It’s been widely reported that the world’s soils are becoming so depleted that they only have another sixty years of harvests left in them. If we’re going to address this devastating trend, then there must be changes globally in the way that land and animals are managed. (For a good overview on this, watch The Magic of Soil – an illustrated talk by Professor Phil Gregory.)
Agriculture isn’t our area of expertise at CAfS, but, purely from a climate change point of view, we feel the key is scale and balance. We feel the current scale of meat and dairy production and mass farming methods aren’t sustainable, but we are open to the evidence mentioned above that animals can be part of a healthy system if managed in the right way.
We’d encourage you to find out more about the issues and form your own view.