Reduce the Impact of
Everything we eat comes from
plants, whether we eat the
plants directly or through an animal intermediary. The basic problem is
animals are inefficient at converting plants into meat, milk, and eggs.
little of what they eat ends up in what you eat because animals use
most of their food
to keep them alive – to fuel their muscles so they can stand up and
around, to keep their hearts beating, to keep their brains working.
That cow, pig, or chicken has
to eat a lot more protein,
carbohydrates, and other nutrients than it yields in meat, eggs, or
result is that it takes several pounds of corn and soy to produce one
pound of beef, or one pound of eggs, one pound of milk, etc. This holds true
even if we’re measuring calories or protein; it takes several times the
calories or protein in livestock feed to produce the calories or protein
we get from the meat, eggs, or milk.
If we're wasting livestock
feed, we're also wasting what it takes to grow that feed. This includes
fossil fuels (with all the emissions they produce) to run
machinery, to pump water for irrigation, for transportation, and to
the pesticides and fertilizers. Then there’s the land (= cleared
rainforest and grasslands) for growing the crops, along with fertilizers (which
produce their own greenhouse gas emissions) and pesticides.
Here's a diagram of the flow
of inputs through our human ecosystem. The
inefficiency of transferring energy from step to step
means each step in the food chain requires a relatively big layer of
inputs to support it. So each step you add multiplies the inputs you
need at the
very bottom (water, land, fertilizer, chemicals).