economy and international trade, unexpected results can have devastating effects on the planet. For instance, did you know your choice of beef might be adding to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest?
Whether you’re simply a customer trying to buy some beef, or a business looking to stock up on supplies, it’s surprising how much of an impact your choice of beef can have on one of the most vital areas on the planet. To do your part, it helps to understand how this problem works and what you can do, in turn, to avoid contributing to it.
How does beef cause deforestation?
Beef is popular in many parts of the world, notably the likes of America and the rising markets of both Russia and China. These countries, as well as Europe, demand a lot of beef and this has to come from somewhere. Cattle ranching requires lots of farmland, which is why so much of the rainforest is being uprooted.
These industries can be found in most, if not all, countries that share a border with the rainforest but the biggest offender is Brazil. Greenpeace has found the country to be the biggest exporter of beef in the region. It’s also one of the fastest developing regions, as estimates suggest it went from shipping $1.9 million worth of beef in 1996, to a staggering $1.9 billion just 8 years later. The government itself has no plans of slowing down, with a goal to double Brazil’s corner of the market by 2018. With around 190 million cows already being farmed, where will another 190 million fit? The answer lies in destroying the forest for simple farmland.
Why is the rainforest so important?
The Amazon rainforest is often referred to as the earth’s lungs, as it’s one of the largest concentrations of plant life on the planet. Plants, such as the thick jungle trees that make up the Amazonian canopy, create oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide. As such, the forest is important to the world’s atmosphere. Without it, we create more carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. Furthermore, the cattle farms that replace it are mass producers of methane. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that cattle produce more harmful emissions than vehicles.
Similarly, the rainforest doesn’t grow back over night. The Amazon is a complex eco-system full of ancient trees intertwined with diverse fauna and flora. While plants can grow back quickly enough, or be re-introduced, it can take upwards of 4000 years to reach anything near its former glory. Clearly, there’s no sustainable way to deforest the Amazon, yet our demand for beef is only increasing the rate in which we do so. This isn’t even considering the amount of undiscovered wildlife estimated to be hiding in the jungle. With every acre destroyed, there’s no telling what we’ve already lost.
Is there an alternative farming method?
The most common method for farming beef, used around the world, is grazing. This uses open fields and pastures to house the cattle, where they can eat from the ground itself. It requires plenty of land but, unfortunately, the alternative requires more land in the long run.
Known as intensive farming, this method involves leaving cattle in confined spaces, allowing industries to farm more cattle on a smaller ranch. The problem is that this means the animals aren’t feeding themselves, so additional food needs to be formed. It takes, on average, around seven pounds of grain to produce just one pound of beef – this would only heighten the need for more land space. Of course, we could eat the grain ourselves but the desire for beef is overwhelming. At the end of the day, it’s important to realize that countries such as Brazil are just symptoms of the overall issue.
How can you prevent more deforestation?
While the demand for beef is very unlikely to fade, there are alternatives to Brazilian beef. As such, individuals and small businesses will have little impact boycotting beef entirely, but it’s possible to swing the balance in favor of cattle industries outside of Central America. This is already seen in many countries, such as the United Kingdom, where local beef is often praised and highlighted. While this might not be for green reasons, it nonetheless diverts money and demand from Central American ranches.
Businesses can use this to their advantage, highlighting the benefits of local beef, in terms of transport costs, freshness and their benefits to the rainforest. Consumers are becoming more and more consciously aware of their choices, often looking at where their food comes from, so proudly displaying none of your beef is contributing to deforestation can actually offer some great publicity or attention.
This is a guest post written by Tim Sparke.