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Implications of Meat Production, Consumption

WASHINGTON—A rapid increase in global meat production and consumption has direct, harmful effects on the environment, public health and economy, according to  researchers from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet project. According to the research, worldwide meat production has tripled over the last four decades and increased 20 percent in just the last 10 years.

"Much of the vigorous growth in meat production is due to the rise of industrial animal agriculture, or factory farming," said Danielle Nierenberg, Worldwatch senior researcher and director of Nourishing the Planet. "Factory farms pollute the environment through the heavy use of inputs such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used for feed production." 

Large-scale meat production also has serious implications for the world's climate. Animal waste releases methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases that are 25 and 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, respectively. "The world's supersized appetite for meat is among the biggest reasons greenhouse gas emissions are still growing rapidly," said Worldwatch President Robert Engelman. "Yet properly managed and scaled meat production----like the kind pursued by small-scale pastoralists on dry grasslands----could actually sequester carbon dioxide. It's largely a matter of rethinking meat at both ends of the production-consumption trail." 

For the researchers, rethinking meat means eating organic, pasture-raised livestock in order to alleviate health problems associated with meat consumption, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Raising meat in this way will also improve the environment, they say, by improving carbon sequestration, and using fewer energy-intensive inputs in order to conserve soil, reduce pollution and erosion, and preserve biodiversity.   

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