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Hungry for Change: The Environmental Cost of America’s Meat Addiction

Industrial animal agriculture causes more harm to the environment and wildlife than any other single industry on the planet. But we all have at least three chances a day to choose an Earth-friendly diet.

Carbon hoofprints

There are a lot of actions we can take to fight climate change and shrink our carbon footprints – from reducing our energy use to driving less. But one big contributor we can’t ignore is our carbon hoofprints. According to researchers, even if the transportation and energy industries were to become carbon neutral tomorrow, we still might not meet our international climate targets unless we start eating less meat and dairy.

Animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Beef is the biggest culprit for those emissions, but chicken, pork and dairy products have their own significant carbon costs. The annual American appetite for chicken alone produces more greenhouse gases than twelve million cars.

Industrial animal agriculture creates a stew of environmental dangers beyond climate change. Growing feed crops for animals and livestock grazing are leading causes of habitat loss, land degradation, water use and pollution. It’s the top threat to biodiversity worldwide. And, if that wasn’t enough, animal agriculture creates a direct threat to wildlife: In 2016, 2.7 million animals were killed by the USDA’s Wildlife Services, largely for the benefit of the livestock industry.

Take extinction off your plate

Minimizing the impact of your diet on the environment is easier than you may think. Meatless Mondays in schools, vegetarian options on restaurant menus and meal-planning to reduce your meat and dairy purchases by one-third or more are all simple steps toward eating healthier and easing the pressure of food production on the planet.

Since fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains require fewer resources than animal agriculture, shifting demand to more Earth-friendly foods can also help support smaller farmers and a more resilient, diversified food system. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but by choosing more plant-based foods and eating fewer and smaller portions of meat and dairy, you can help protect wildlife and the planet at every meal.

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