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To feed the global human race and coming up with the best method to do it is a far nobler endeavour than anyone can imagine. Researchers have been torn between advocating for animal agriculture or even crops growth which is the alternative. It has been argued that if the effects of animal agriculture on the environment, economy, human health and ethical values are managed, it can lead to major changes that can make it more superior than reliance on alternative methods. This essay will focus on the cost and benefit of animal agriculture on the world against the alternative methods, the best method to adopt as a means of feeding human race, how the cost of the favoured option can be reduced as well as the recommendations and how to communicate them to the interested parties.
FAO in 2008 provided statistics that showed that about 1 billion people are malnourished in that they are unable to access enough calories essential for survival. This figure has since risen, and the number of people that are not getting enough food has continued to rise due to some factors. The United Nations in 2002 developed some Millennium Development Goals which was meant to combat hunger and reduce it by a half by 2015 (United Nations, 2009). However, the chances of this hope have been diminishing with every day that passes. However, with the deterioration of global economies, many people have remained poor such that they cannot afford to purchase staple foods such as maize and rice or even affording grains to cultivate in their farm to afford their foods. This has led to the outbreak of riots in many parts of the world. The FAO prospects by 2050 show that animal products including meat and dairy products would be more than double.
This rise in demand for animal products has mostly been noted in the developing countries since 1995 when for the first time, developed countries produced more dairy and meat products than the developed nations (United Nations, 2009). This trend was far more significant by the year 2006 when more than 60% of these products were produced in the developed nations. This has also seen a rise in the consumption of the same products due to the increase in global population and movement of people to urban centres which have made them depend more on buying foods rather than producing them as well as Reliance Street and fast foods which are readily available.
This growing demand for animal products is being met by the development of industrial animal operations characterized by large-scale production facilities that are taking a global extent in areas such as Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, China, Vietnam and India. There has been large-scale production of animal products with an estimation of chicken produced being 67%, eggs being 50% and pigs farmed through the industrial animal operations is 42% between the years 2001-2003 (United Nations, 2009). The industrial animal farming leads to confining of millions or hundreds of thousands of animals which allow management of their natural behaviour. It also allows prevention of production of gigantic amounts of wastes spread across large parts of the globe. Confining animals in an area is said to pollute the air water and soil as well as exacerbating the emergence of zoonotic diseases and foodborne pathogens such as E. coli as well as avian influenza.
The animal products industry is, however, facing stiff competition from poor people for cereals as well as the other cereals that for a long time have been used to feed the animals. These grains range from the soybeans, and corns that are fed to chicken, cattle, pigs as well as the other animals that are used in agriculture. The consumption of these feeds allow the animals to gain weight very fast and this allows their slaughter and sale in less time. Using grains to feed the animals is considered as a very inefficient way of using foods since 3kg of grains are needed in the production of the only 1kg of meat. Professor Vaclav Smith of the department of environment in Manitoba University states that depending on animal proteins which leads to the use of a lot of resources is not the most efficient way to use the available resources. He compiled a report that shows that feeding chicken on soybeans makes them utilize only 20% of the protein present in the beans thus 80% goes to waste. Pigs lead to a loss of 90% of the lost proteins. Energy obtained from animals from grains and other food sources is used for metabolic processes as well as in the formation of cartilages and bones as well as other parts that are never edible and faeces.
The UN Department of the environmental program says that reduction of global meat consumption to 37.4/kg/capita by 2050 would lead to freeing of cereals of over 400 million tones which is enough capacity to meet the calories demand of over 1 billion people per year (Harper et al., 2009). Water which is also an essential resource in the production of animal products is also depleted in the process. The climatic changes experienced can lead to the jeopardizing of water sources. More water to produce animal products will be required compared to the amount of water that is needed for the growth of plants. Research shows that more than five times of water is needed in the supply of 10 grams of proteins compared to those of rice. Production of 500 calories from beef essentially required approximately five times the amount of water as compared to that water needed to produce rice and also over there times the amount of water is needed in production of a kg of chicken compared to that needed to produce the same amount of rice. More water is also required in hydrating the animals as well as for the industrial use for cleaning, cooling animals through spraying or the use of misters and even for waste disposal (United Nations, 2009). Therefore production of animal products of industrial extent is far more water-intensive compared to pasture-based farming. It was also noted that the industrial operations involving eggs and milk consume a lot of water. Animal products processing is also another intensive water consuming operation which leads to a lot of waste for water. It is therefore foolish in a world where over a billion people are hungry to depend on animal products are a very lavish choice of sustenance (Mirle, 2012).
To alleviate hunger, humans will be making choices on the food to be consumed in the next 50 years to fight climate change and to protect their health. In 2008 an open letter to the next United States president was published by Michael Pollan asking him to think about better food policies due to the threat posed by climate change as well as the challenges that come about with foods (Mirle, 2012). Pollan advocated for feeding on the lower levels of the food chain as well as reduction of overdependence of fossil fuels which lead to global warming. Both medical and environmental experts are advocating for the consumption of food products since they pose less risk compared to animal products and they also lead to better ways of environmental protection. An article that appeared in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in the year 2007 stated that the diet from plants could play a better role in the environmental preservation as well as in curbing malnutrition in poorer states. The diets from vegetables and vegans in the article were said to have less impact on the environment and the water sources compared to the chicken, beef and eggs diet.
Another journal of Lancet during the same year advocated for the reduction of meat consumption up to 90g/day which can be compared to the size of the breast of a chicken which is essential in curbing greenhouse effect resulting from industrial animal agriculture. The journal also stated that this reduction could result in the reduction of cardiovascular complexities, obesity and certain types of cancer. The chairperson of “Nobel Prize-Winning Panel on Environmentalteration”, also urges people to drive less, shop less and eat less meat which enables the struggle to combat climate change. He states that it is very essential to utilize forms of energy that are more sustainable in agriculture and travel to since it provides more jobs and good health (Harper et al., 2009).
It is also very essential to venture into innovation which allows people to come up with better substitutes for traditional animal products thus intensifying the fight against climate change. Better and sustainable forms of proteins have been discovered in Vrije University which includes highly nutritious and less expensive legumes. This also paves the way for the way consumers can learn about the ecological as well as the ethical impacts of the production of meat, eggs as well as milk (Harper et al., 2009). This has enhanced the popularity of plant-based alternatives. Researchers in the United States are also working on methods of production of animal tissues using the techniques of modern tissue engineering. This would allow the production of products that smell, look and taste like meat without necessarily rearing animals and obtaining these products from them. The meat here known in vitro meat will be of higher nutritional value than that from the reared animals. The ethical issues that come about with the production and consumption are so many compared to those of plants, for example, the Muslims have issues with the consumption of pigs, yet pigs are easy to rare and an easy source of proteins (Mirle, 2012).
Therefore, due to the short supply of land and food in the world, it is very inefficient to rare livestock by using grains. Several scientists are blaming the changes in the economy in the developing countries which has led to the rise in demand for animal products. As much as this would appear as a problem, western countries have not also reduced their animal products consumption ratio (Harper et al., 2009). Also, using land in growing animal feeds has proved to be far more inefficient as compared to using the same land to produce crops for human consumption. Also, there is a lot of waste of water in rearing animals as compared to plants growth. Animals lead to more climatic changes compared to plants, and their products have far more health issues to humans than plants without considering the numerous ethical issues that about with animal products as compared to plants. Therefore, dependence on plants for food as an alternative to animal products is better than imagining of even improving the animal sector since the same demerits will still be in existence (Mirle, 2012).
Cutting the cost of crop growing can be done by participating in large-scale farming, lowing the cost of seeds, obtaining new technology in farming, boosting the efficiency of fertilizers, varying the rates of nitrogen in the soil, application of fertilizers basing on the results of soil tests, changing crop rotation, negotiating lower rents as well as preparing for future profits. This would reduce the cost and also improve the quality and quantity of crop yields.
It is necessary to inform the interested parties such as governments and other stakeholders about the best option to feed humans in the globe. The best way to do this is presenting hard facts that show that crop products can be far more superior, do less harm to humans compared to animal products, present data showing how the animal products require more from the economy than crops and also show how the animal products are associated with more climate pollution and have more ethical issues than plants. Facts and reality will make people feel challenged and change their mentality to accept the best option. People like medical experts, environmental experts, economists and leaders are always ready to accept the facts. If they would feel challenged, then they would adopt farming of crops and dependence on crop products rather than animal products.
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