The narrative posited by cultured meat proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The environmental impacts of a product, such as a beef hamburger, is then compared to the anticipatory ones for producing a cultured hamburger patty through tissue engineering-based cellular agriculture. While it is true that conventional meat production has a large environmental footprint, the problem with this dichotomous framing is that it overlooks the rest of the story.
As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it. A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.
What the evidence shows is that becoming vegetarian might help reduce your personal footprint—but it will be better to focus on a range of solutions if we want to have an impact on climate change.
At the Global Landscapes Initiative in the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, our research focuses on increasing global food security while reducing harmful impacts from agriculture to Earth’s natural resources. We have found that one key strategy to combating food insecurity—lack of access to nutritious foods—is increasing food production on small farms. There are tremendous opportunities to increase yields throughout South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. . . .
The Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem covers about 2,200 square kilometres of Kenya’s Kajiado County, south of Nairobi. It is also home to Nairobi National Park—the world’s only game reserve within a major city. The ecosystem has experienced some dramatic changes since the late 19th century. The accounts of early writers paint a picture of a spectacular ecosystem teeming with diverse resident and migratory wildlife. Records describe abundant wildebeest that migrated seasonally with other wildlife species, livestock and pastoralists. In a recently published study my colleagues and I examined the impact of land fragmentation in the Athi-Kaputiei ecosystem between 1977 and 2014. Our study shows that urbanisation and development has put the ecosystem in distress. It has fragmented the landscape which has reduced the ability of animals to migrate as they used to. The result is that their numbers have plummeted.
Emerging infectious diseases are a major concern to the global public health community, both in terms of disease burden and economic burden. Understanding the processes that lead to their emergence is therefore a scientific research priority. Over the last five years Eric Fevre has been working with a group of researchers to understand what leads to the introduction of pathogens in urban environments and how those then emerge in the human population.
Boran cattle in Yabello, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/ Camille Hanotte). By Thumbi Mwangi, Washington State University A majority of rural households in Africa keep different livestock species. But only a small proportion can afford to keep good quality livestock. This is mainly due to a combination of low government funding and the poor policies of external …