How German Sausages contribute to Climate Change
I’ve been a vegetarian for more than half my life – not the good kind that wants to save the animals though. I just never liked the taste and the thought of eating something dead.
Somehow that seems to relieve most people because I’m not a crazy hippie, I just have weird taste in food. But it shouldn’t. The incredibly high demand for meat does not only have an impact on the lives of the animals that are slaughtered, but also on the lives of the people in the countries that produce the food.
After having read a case study about the (fast) fashion retailer Zara, I thought that as interesting as this topic is, I wanted to go back to the roots of the term fast fashion: fast food.
How could something as precious as food become a mass-produced, disposable good? Not just limited to fast food chains, I wanted to find out how every household contributes to the wasteful attitude of our society and what stands behind the mass of meat that is offered in every grocery store.
The German meat industry association says that we Germans consume 60 kg of meat per head every year – this is about the average weight of a woman. Where’s the problem? – one might ask. The problem is that for every one kg of animal protein produced – meat or dairy products – the cattle is fed six times as much. Often grown in developing countries, this fodder usually consists of grain, corn or soy and takes up an enormous amount of space. As a result, rain forest is burnt down in South America and instead of providing much needed food to the people, the fields are planted with animal feed because it’s more profitable. This has led to the fact that an incredible 30 % of the ice-free areas in the world are used for growing fodder – and it’s still not enough!
The International Grains Council warns that the growing demand for meat will soon exceed the grain supply. In Germany alone we consume so much meat that to feed the livestock we would need an area as big as Austria. Which is why with 23 %, the meat industry has the highest turnover in the German grocery market – closely followed by dairy products.
My dear meateaters, is it really necessary to eat your own weight in meat? Is it fair that 11 % of meat go straight to the trash when the people who produce food for your food can’t afford to eat meat? Are you ok with supporting climate change, just so that you can have your steak?
The problem is that we have forgotten to value food. We expect to have an endless range of products at discount prices. It’s not supposed to hurt your wallet when you throw out food because it doesn’t suit your aesthetic standards or when you were simply too lazy to write a shopping list.
We need to get back to a healthy relationship with food – something is definitely wrong when a society is concerned about gaining weight because it has TOO MUCH food. In Germany, we spend only 11 % of our income on food due to our low food prices. Another factor that contributes to the fact that we throw away food worth 20 bn euros every year – that is the annual turnover of Aldi!
People often don’t realize how their irresponsible behavior affects themselves. It’s easy to say “I don’t care about what happens to the people in Africa” because it’s far away. But the truth is: What happens to them, happens to us. Burning down forests contributes to the climate change – I don’t think I have to list all the consequences again because we all know that they are severe and that we should do everything to try to control the damage that’s already been done.
Our consumption of meat and consequently of grains has also supported the formation of huge farms that, due to their reduced costs, can offer their products at much lower prices than small farmers in, for example, Mexico. Those will eventually have to go out of business and we will be dependent on a few big companies. This has already raised the world market price for corn, which caused the so-called “Tortilla crisis” in 2006/2007 when the price for corn, the most consumed food in Mexico, rose by 50 %. If nothing changes, it’ll only be a matter of time until we won’t be able to pay for our basic food.
And why all this madness when eating grain or corn directly is much more efficient? It is a waste of resources to take a detour over the animals, since as mentioned earlier for every one kg of meat, we could instead eat 6 kg of grain and save 15.000 litres of water that is used during the production.
I don’t think it is necessary to stop eating meat altogether, but in order to avoid food shortages in the future, we should concentrate on a more sustainable nutrition.