Recent studies have shown that the consumption of meat and animal products in on the rise across the globe. While a few places, such as Iceland and Mongolia, have seen slight decreases in meat consumption, other areas including India and China have seen sky-rocketing increases. In these regions, the booming economy has allowed people to pull themselves out of poverty, allowing their diets to change from little more than rice to including a lot of seafood and meats.
A work published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed the extent of the increase. The study described mankind’s food consumption in comparison to other types of consumers on the food chain. This is done on what’s called a trophic scale, labeled from one to five. A one on the scale corresponds to the plants and algae that make their own food/energy. Level two relates to the animals that eat the plants, or herbivores. The animals that eat the herbivores are considered level three, and those animals that eat them are at level four (including fish such as cod that eat other fishes). Level five is reserved for the lucky few that have no predators coming after them for a meal: the top of the food chain.
In 2009, our humanity’s trophic level was estimated to be at 2.21, placing us in with the lower omnivores. However, in the past four years, that number has increased by about .06 globally, and is currently the highest it has ever been. Not including India and China in the mix, the rest of the world sits just above 2.30. Don’t let these small numbers fool you. The small, 3% increase that has been seen in the past 40 years has a major impact on our ecosystem. In 2006, the livestock industry was directly responsible for about 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the water and land use to raise livestock and produce meat products is far greater than that of vegetation.
If this trend continues, it could have major impacts on our ecosystem. Think about this next time you prepare a meal. Cutting out all meat from your diet is not necessary, but incorporating plant-based proteins to replace meat a couple days per week may be a good idea for both your wallet and the ecosystem.