Meat for dinner

Meat on the table isn’t sustainable.

Maybe you already heard about it on the news. The consumption of meat is not beneficial to the environment. Or to say it in another way – the ‘meat production process’ that is currently supplying our need for meat is not very efficient. But how can a cow or a pig have that much effect on the climate? Is this possible? Or have we gone crazy? Let’s take a closer look…

For this article, I’ll take my own country as an example. The Netherlands is a small country that currently houses a little more than 17 million Dutchies. That means an equal amount of mouths to feed (okay, minus the 150.000 babies that were born last year). Of course, just like anywhere else in the World, Dutch people like their meat. But do not forget the 700.000 people that are vegetarian or vegan! That leaves us with approximately 16 million people that do consume meat. How does that relate to meat production?


Let’s take a look at the numbers generated over last year (2017). According to the CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics), the Netherlands slaughtered more than 600 million chickens, nearly 2.2 million cows, 15.2 million pigs, and nearly 550 thousand sheep. In total 639.665.000 animals were slaughtered for human consumption. Yes, these are just numbers generated only by the Netherlands over just one year! If you feel the need to double check: the data can be found by clicking here.

meat Netherlands earthlyiris
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Can you imagine?

Based on these numbers, a Dutch meat-based household of 4 persons will need to raise 148 chickens, 4 pigs, and half a cow (one cow per 2 families) per year to fulfill the nowadays meat-eating needs. Can you imagine the state of your backyard? If you even have one… Besides that, I don’t think many families are interested in raising animals for their own consumption. That is why ‘industrial processes’ for breeding and raising animals are designed. And just like us, they need food to grow big. A lot of it.


That is exactly the reason why nearly 80% of all agricultural land worldwide is used for livestock. Actually, 26% of the usable area on Earth are grazing grounds for cattle. Not even all the croplands are used directly for human consumption – one-third is used to grow food to feed the animals. In other ways: when following a meat-based diet, you indirectly consume double the amount of grains than consumed by vegetarian-based diet. That makes livestock, but actually our global meat-consumption, the largest user of land resources (according to the FAO of the UN).

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Unknown –
other side effects

Besides the usage of land, there are some other known negative effects. One of them is the difference in water usage. For example, this article shows that 1 kilogram of chicken meat consumes 4325L of water. 322L of water is needed to produce 1 kg of vegetables. Red meat (beef) is the winner in the water contest: 15415 L per kilogram! Another side effect is the manure… How many kilograms of sh*t would that be? According to 2500 dairy cows produce an equal amount of poop as a city of 411.000 people!

It can be stated that the production process of meat towards our plates is not really efficient. Therefore it’s not helping towards a more sustainable future. So, if we all chose a vegan or vegetarian option from time to time, without all the fuss about it, we’d be doing the Earth (and future generations) a huge favor!


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