Making meat sustainable: ‘Intensive’ livestock farms more ecological than the ‘natural’ alternative

California feedlot drought

As global demand for meat grows, the environmental “hoofprint” of livestock production could grow, too. Demand-side strategies are unlikely to reverse the long historical trend of increasing meat consumption as countries develop economically, but there are ways to improve the environmental performance of livestock systems on the production end. Contrary to popular perception, modern, intensive livestock production can offer environmental efficiencies compared to traditional, lower-input systems. In a world where billions of people want meat on their plates, it will be crucial to leverage the efficiency of intensive systems to meet demand and minimize environmental harm.

. . . .

walking-thru-fieldPasture land for cattle alone covers a quarter of the world’s land area, and the global livestock sector is responsible for about 14% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s fair to say that producing food leaves the largest environmental footprint of any human activity, and meat plays a leading role.

[I]ntensive livestock systems are defined by their reliance on external feeds that are nutritionally optimized to promote growth. For cattle, this means fattening the animals on grain- and soy-based feeds in feedlots during the last few months before slaughter. …

. . . .

Broadly speaking, the higher productivity that characterizes intensive systems also often results inscreen_shot_2016-12-14_at_1-08-26_am lower environmental impacts per pound of meat, especially when it comes to beef production. This positive relationship between productivity and environmental efficiencies points to the possibility of win-win outcomes for livestock intensification.

This positive relationship between productivity and environmental performance is a crucial insight, and subverts the common perception that more intensive production is necessarily worse for the planet.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: The Future of Meat

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