Not only less meat..

Should we maybe, eat a little bit less meat? This text is one of these ‘make the world a better place’-articles, an answer and an addition to Mark’s comment in Utropia. While the answer is: ‘Yes, it would probably help’ I felt like Mark’s elaboration left one or two things unsaid. The argumentation is the following: Eating meat is economically terribly inefficient regarding pretty much everything: Water consumption, plant consumption and use of space. Humanity makes partly irreversible changes and uses up resources unsustainably.

But is abstention really the strategy of choice? Well, not only. Habits are strong, and I can’t think of any good example, when abstention solved any major problem.

Chlorofluorocarbons damaged the ozone layer. Now it is recovering, because chlorofluorocarbons were phased out in 1989. They were replaced by better compounds.

Eating less meat requires an alternative, a technology to compensate. What can be alternatives to meat? Plants? We are adapted to an omnivore behavior, which includes eating meat. We can’t expect everyone to become vegetarian. But meat production can become more efficient. And it has to happen fast. World population is expected to grow from 7.4 billion to 11 billion in 2100; only reducing resource consumption will not suffice, there has to be progress to make resource use more efficient and to deal with the affiliated changes to the environment.

One alternative is eating insects instead of mammals. Eating a cockroach instead of stamping it sounds pretty gross, but consider: Eating habits are habits, and habits can change. In fact, eating insects is common in several cultures.  The basic point is that you need much less food to produce a kilogram of insect protein than a kilogram of beef. Chitin, which makes up the exoskeleton of insects could be a useful byproduct of insect production. Have you ever tasted a bug?

Another concept, which was developed in Berlin, Germany is the “tomatofish”.  In principle an artificial and minimalistic ecosystem was set up: The fish breathe oxygen, the tomato plants breathe CO2. The fish produce ammonium, which is converted to fertilizer by bacteria. Water evaporates from the plants, which is used to fill the refill the fish tanks. Recycling is the key here.

These are only two examples, which illustrate, what could be done, in order to feed humanity more efficiently. Eating less meat is one strategy, but only one, which needs to be balanced by good alternatives. What can you do in your everyday life? Well, the next time there is a cockroach in the kitchen, you know what to do!

Text: Jahn Nitshke

Sources and further reading:

(unfortunately in german)