If I told you to draw a room that accurately represents the number of mammals living in the world, what would you do? Like me, you might draw a couple of elephants, a few lions, some monkeys and maybe even a human. Unfortunately, we are both incredibly mistaken. We needed to draw a lot more cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens because out of all the mammals in the world, 60% are livestock and 36% are human! This is the outcome of large-scale unsustainable industrialized animal factory farms. Let us find out how unsustainable this system is and whether there is some way we can fix this.
Industrialized Agricultural Systems – Story of Unsustainable Food Production
A study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2007 revealed that our agricultural practices was occupying 38% of the world’s land area and were responsible for 70% of global freshwater consumption. When this report first came out, people were both surprised and confused. Firstly, how can humans use so much land for food production and yet continues to struggle with global hunger problems? People started delving deeper to find out why this was the case. What they found out was even more alarming:
33% of agricultural land is used for livestock feed production
Only 55% of the world’s crop is being used to feed humans
Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations tried to set the record straight by saying that “86% of livestock feed is not suitable for human consumption”. However, it still does not justify the fact that still a large portion of land is dedicated to livestock feed production. You may argue saying that, in the end, it is we who eat these animals. This is a good argument, but we are doing this in the most inhumane way possible. This livestock is not biologically designed to eat these crops. So, to prevent them from getting infected and ill, tons of antibiotics are used on these poor animals. Ignoring the obvious animal rights concerns, this has a major impact on our health and environment. In the end, not only are we highly inefficient in using our agricultural lands to produce food, but we are also doing it in the most unethical way imaginable. How do we overcome these challenges and promote sustainable farming practices?
Lab-Grown Meat the Way Forward For Sustainable Agriculture
Lab-Grown meat or cultured meat has come a long way. In August 2013, the world’s first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten in London. Back then, it did not look or taste like a burger and it cost $280,000 to make. However, technology has come a long way. It can now produce meat that is biologically identical while being able to look and taste the same. Companies like Mosa Meat and Biotech Foods could even potentially bring us burgers for $10 by 2021! That means we can eat all the meat we want without straining the environment and the animals.
However, we need to take this with a grain of salt. A lot of these companies have not made their scientific data available for independent researchers to review. This means we do not know how much water and electricity will require to produce. Therefore, we are still unaware of how environmentally friendly this will be. Nevertheless, it is a promising sustainable agricultural future that we can all look forward to with hope.