Animal Proteins and the Environment: Should You Choose?

If there is a nutrient attributed to the muscles, it is the proteins. And indeed, it is a major constituent of muscle tissue, whose contributions deserve to be optimized daily when you are interested in sports, when you want to lose weight or just take care of your health . The thinning and the regular practice of a physical activity cause indeed an increase of the theoretical needs. This reasoning is physiological and is, logically, the focus of the main nutritional recommendations. Yes, but. If we take a more global view of the roles of food, in a collective dimension, then the situation is no longer so simple. Indeed, in view of the evolution of demography and the current trend of the world population to increase its intake of animal protein, it will eventually trap … While projections bring us to more than 9.6 billion people on the planet in 2050, maintaining such consumption of animal protein is indeed an ecological impasse. At the scale of humanity, reducing the consumption of animal protein is therefore essential: but then, what solutions to consider? Let’s see all this in details. reducing the consumption of animal protein is therefore essential: but then, what solutions to consider? Let’s see all this in details. reducing the consumption of animal protein is therefore essential: but then, what solutions to consider? Let’s see all this in details.

Why talk about global issues?

This is a real subject. Above all because we are part of this great community that is humanity. It is therefore our responsibility to ask ourselves at least about the collective effects that our individual choices may generate. This subject is fascinating and raises the essential question of the collective dimension of behavior. Like the history of the hummingbird, we could say to ourselves: ”  Whether I change my food choices or not, that’s not what will change the world. So as much as I eat what I want without worrying about the environmental impact, it does not concern me. »Transport, sorting, collaborative economy, etc. : the question of course does not concern food. But the problem remains the same: do we choose to be actors in a collective evolution, or do we prefer to leave this responsibility to the neighbor or to our children? As the Buddhist and scientist Mathieu Ricard makes clear, at the scale of humanity, the present generation is the first whose behavior determines the future of future generations.

A brief inventory

 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), world consumption of animal protein has doubled in less than 50 years and is expected to increase by 70% to feed the entire population by 2050 if the trend in our food choices is maintained. . While in 2009, 229 million tonnes of meat were produced worldwide, production is expected to exceed 465 million tonnes in 2050 to satisfy the growing carnivorous needs of humans. Indeed, in 2010, each inhabitant consumed more than 80g of protein per day, compared to 62g fifty years earlier in 1961. If we analyze in more detail this evolution, we see that it is especially the part of the animal proteins that has increased from 25g to 41g per capita per day. Of course, and this is an essential point to treat the heart of the subject, we are talking here only about an average: while the consumption of animal protein in the richest countries has increased during this period from 40 to 60 g / d / inhabitant in the richest countries, that of the poorer it remained stable, around 10g / d / hab. Since the mid-2000s, meat consumption in developed countries has not progressed further, or even decreased slightly due to nutritional concerns, animal welfare and environmental impact. On the other hand, consumption in developing countries is steadily increasing: for example, meat consumption in China has increased eight-fold in less than 40 years. while the consumption of animal protein in the richest countries has increased during this period from 40 to 60 g / d / inhabitant in the richest countries, that of the poorest countries has remained stable, around 10g / day / capita. Since the mid-2000s, meat consumption in developed countries has not progressed further, or even decreased slightly due to nutritional concerns, animal welfare and environmental impact. On the other hand, consumption in developing countries is steadily increasing: for example, meat consumption in China has increased eight-fold in less than 40 years. while the consumption of animal protein in the richest countries has increased during this period from 40 to 60 g / d / inhabitant in the richest countries, that of the poorest countries has remained stable, around 10g / day / capita. Since the mid-2000s, meat consumption in developed countries has not progressed further, or even decreased slightly due to nutritional concerns, animal welfare and environmental impact. On the other hand, consumption in developing countries is steadily increasing: for example, meat consumption in China has increased eight-fold in less than 40 years. meat consumption in developed countries is no longer increasing or even declining slightly due to nutritional concerns, animal welfare and environmental impact. On the other hand, consumption in developing countries is steadily increasing: for example, meat consumption in China has increased eight-fold in less than 40 years. meat consumption in developed countries is no longer increasing or even declining slightly due to nutritional concerns, animal welfare and environmental impact. On the other hand, consumption in developing countries is steadily increasing: for example, meat consumption in China has increased eight-fold in less than 40 years.

How is the world’s consumption of animal protein calculated?This is an apparent consumption, calculated from resources (production + imports) and jobs (consumption and exports) taking into account the change in stocks: these figures actually reflect quantities available for sale. Although leading to an overvaluation of actual protein consumption, this source has the merit of allowing comparisons over long periods on a global scale.

This evolution is directly correlated with the evolution of incomes and the wealth of the countries. This trend, which was confirmed only in developed countries at the time, has now become widespread in emerging and transition countries. It is explained before by access to a world food supply facilitated by a greater purchasing power associated with a change in eating habits. Food habits, despite the maintenance of a cultural dimension that varies from country to country, tend to become standardized on the Western model, in particular because of the increasingly important part that the food industry takes in the daily plate. Thus, according to FAO, the figures relating to the increase in world production since 1967 speak for themselves: + 700% of poultry meat production, + 350% for eggs, + 290% for pork, + 200% for sheepmeat and goatmeat, + 180% for beef and milk. Because, obviously, these new resources are essentially drawn from the intensive breeding which continues to increase the number of heads. In 2011, livestock products provided 12.9% of calories consumed worldwide and 20.3% in developed countries. Their contribution to world protein consumption is estimated at 47.8% in developed countries. In view of the demographic evolution, it would then be necessary by 2050, keeping current methods, to raise twice the number of poultry, + 80% of small ruminants, + 50% of cattle and + 40% of pigs and more. Of course, these new resources are essentially drawn from intensive farming, which continues to increase the number of heads. In 2011, livestock products provided 12.9% of calories consumed worldwide and 20.3% in developed countries. Their contribution to world protein consumption is estimated at 47.8% in developed countries. In view of the demographic evolution, it would then be necessary by 2050, keeping current methods, to raise twice the number of poultry, + 80% of small ruminants, + 50% of cattle and + 40% of pigs and more. Of course, these new resources are essentially drawn from intensive farming, which continues to increase the number of heads. In 2011, livestock products provided 12.9% of calories consumed worldwide and 20.3% in developed countries. Their contribution to world protein consumption is estimated at 47.8% in developed countries. In view of the demographic evolution, it would then be necessary by 2050, keeping current methods, to raise twice the number of poultry, + 80% of small ruminants, + 50% of cattle and + 40% of pigs and more. 3% in developed countries. Their contribution to world protein consumption is estimated at 47.8% in developed countries. In view of the demographic evolution, it would then be necessary by 2050, keeping current methods, to raise twice the number of poultry, + 80% of small ruminants, + 50% of cattle and + 40% of pigs and more. 3% in developed countries. Their contribution to world protein consumption is estimated at 47.8% in developed countries. In view of the demographic evolution, it would then be necessary by 2050, keeping current methods, to raise twice the number of poultry, + 80% of small ruminants, + 50% of cattle and + 40% of pigs and more.

Beyond the effects of these dietary changes on health, the ecological impact of such intensive farming represents a major global challenge. The economic and demographic projections show that, in the current state of resources and knowledge about their exploitation, the generalization of the level of consumption of animal proteins from the richest countries can not be maintained in the long term. Thus, and in a simple way, the current nutritional challenge is to reverse the trend in terms of protein consumption in the world: reduce the share of animal protein and increase that of vegetable protein.

 

Environmental impact of global consumption of animal protein

 

The fact is simple: livestock production monopolises 70% of arable land and 40% of cereals grown in the world are intended to feed livestock that mobilize these lands. This is one of the essential points: to ensure this growing demand for animal protein, it is essential to increase cereal production to the detriment of soil fertility and respect for its ecosystem. In summary, while more than 840 million people suffer from hunger in the world and 2 billion nutritional deficiencies, the current system favors low energy efficiency to meet the growing need for animal protein at the expense of global solutions, both nutritional and nutritional. environmental or economic. Indeed, depending on the species, the energy cost of the estimated animal calorie is approximately 3 to 9 vegetable calories. If we take the example of an industrially beefed beef for 3 years to provide 200kg of meat, this beef will consume 1300kg of grain and 7200kg of feed. On average, 7kg of cereals are needed to produce 1kg of meat in intensive feedlots. Who says culture, also says consumption of water.

The water footprint is a virtual unit of measurement that quantifies the water needed to produce a food on all stages, direct and indirect. Between 1996 and 2005, humanity’s water footprint was 9,087 trillion cubic meters. 92% of this was intended for agriculture and livestock. According to a report published in December 2010 by UNESCO’s Institute for Water Education (HIE), the production of one kg of beef requires 15,000 liters of water! Being specified that the conditions of breeding can of course modulate these values. Such numbers have at least the merit of speaking for themselves … For comparison, while 3100 liters of water are needed to allow you to enjoy a steak of beef 200g, only 90 liters are used to grow 500g tomatoes and …. 2500 liters to produce a burger of 150g! Beyond the nutritional consequences of his menus, Ronald is therefore a major player in global issues related to food. If you want to continue comparisons, I invite you to download the applicationvirtualwater for less than US $ 2. The story continues….

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Water footprint of some foods

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Food Quantity Food Quantity Water (liter) Water footprint liter / kg
Beef 300 g 4,650 15,000
Mutton 300 g 1,830 6,100
Pork 300 g 1,410 4,800
Goat meat 300 g 1,200 4000
Chicken 300 g 1,170 3,900
eggs 60 g 198 3,300
Barley 500 g 650 1,300
Corn 500 g 650 1,300
Sorghum 500 g 1,400 2,800
Millet 500 g 2,500 5,000
Rice 500 g 1,700 3,400
Soybeans 500 g 900 1,800
Corn 500 g 450 900
Potatoes 500 g 125 250
tomatoes 100 g 18 180
Tartine 500 g 650 1,300
Hamburger 150 g 2,499 16,600
Cheese 500 g 2,500 5,000
Milk 1,000 ml 1,000 1,000
Tea 750 ml 90 120
Coffee 750 ml 840 1,120
Wine 750 ml 720 960
Beer 500 ml 150 300
Cane sugar 500 g 750 1,500
Chocolate 100 g 2,400 24,000
Coco 1000g 2,500 2,500
Orange 100 g 50 500
Apples 100 g 70 700
bananas 120 g 103 860
Mango 350 g 560 1,600
Leather 250 g 4,250 17,000
Paper 500 g 5,000 10,000
Cotton 250 g 2,700 10,800

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According to the FAO, raising the 20 billion animals needed for food is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions (13% in France), more than transport. The belching of ruminants produces 37% of the methane emitted as a result of human activities. Let’s just remember that the global warming potential of methane is 23 times higher than that of CO2. The storage and spreading of manure is responsible for 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, the most powerful greenhouse gas. Deforestation resulting from conversion of land to pasture or fodder crops accounts for 9% of CO2 emissions. And for comparison, consumed for one year and per person, a meal without meat and without dairy products, consisting of plants of biological origin represents, in terms of greenhouse effect, the equivalent of CO2 emitted to travel 281km by car. A meal consisting of meat and dairy products from conventional food is equivalent to 4758km … without falling into any dogmatism whatsoever and if the values ​​would certainly have the merit of being nuanced, this comparison has the merit of doing reflect.

We could thus continue development on many other points, in particular concerning the massive use of fertilizers and pesticides as part of the intensive monoculture dedicated to animal feed. Harvests absorb only one-third to one-half of the nitrogen used, the remainder logically polluting soils and water. Traditional farming methods use animal manure in the crop rotation system to maintain soil quality. Intensive farming, by definition, confines animals in considerably reduced areas, generating a quantity of faeces that is much greater than the recycling capacity of the surrounding ecosystems. When we know that a dairy cow produces as many faeces in volume as 20 to 40 humans, I let you imagine the prospect of these intensive farms … From a health point of view, ditto: more than 70% of the nitrogen and phosphorus contained in the feed of cattle and pigs are released into excrement and urine , which will then contaminate the soil and water. The water becomes logically unfit for consumption and the risk of bacterial contaminations soar. And that says risks of contamination, says use of antibiotics. The figures are again eloquent: while 3.5 million kg of antibiotics were sold to treat men in 2011, 13.5 million were to ensure livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates. more than 70% of the nitrogen and phosphorus contained in the feed of cattle and pigs are released into excrement and urine, which will then contaminate soil and water. The water becomes logically unfit for consumption and the risk of bacterial contamination fly away. And that says risks of contamination, says use of antibiotics. The figures are again eloquent: while 3.5 million kg of antibiotics were sold to treat men in 2011, 13.5 million were to ensure livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates. more than 70% of the nitrogen and phosphorus contained in the feed of cattle and pigs are released into excrement and urine, which will then contaminate soil and water. The water becomes logically unfit for consumption and the risk of bacterial contaminations soar. And that says risks of contamination, says use of antibiotics. The figures are again eloquent: while 3.5 million kg of antibiotics were sold to treat men in 2011, 13.5 million were to ensure livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates. The water becomes logically unfit for consumption and the risk of bacterial contamination fly away. And that says risks of contamination, says use of antibiotics. The figures are again eloquent: while 3.5 million kg of antibiotics were sold to treat men in 2011, 13.5 million were to ensure livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates. The water becomes logically unfit for consumption and the risk of bacterial contaminations soar. And that says risks of contamination, says use of antibiotics. The figures are again eloquent: while 3.5 million kg of antibiotics were sold to treat men in 2011, 13.5 million were to ensure livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates. 5 million were used for livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates. 5 million were used for livestock production. These are the same antibiotics that are found partially in the flesh of animals, so in our plates.

Well, I’m going to stop chewing you up with all these theoretical numbers. However, they are the reflection of a situation, it is very real. Some of them can be qualified, in particular in relation to the fact that it is not possible to produce cereals in a part of the land with limited agronomic potential and that breeding represents in these conditions the only way to valorisation of surfaces, which makes it possible to maintain a rural population and to participate in the development of public goods. Similarly, gross emissions of greenhouse gases by animals do not include the capacity of grasslands to store carbon, which can offset between 25 and 50% of emissions depending on the share of grass. Of course. But these nuances in no way remove the veracity of the stakes around the consumption of animal proteins.

 

A small slice of steak?

 

Back on topic. The theory of sports nutrition would like us to increase the consumption of dietary protein to optimize our nutritional needs. Certainly, but let us nuance this theory by several points:

  • It all depends on the level of initial consumption of these proteins. At the individual level and in France, many athletes already spontaneously reach the quantitative references of animal protein intake, or as an example about 80 to 100g of protein per day for a 70kg athlete. Thus, more than the quantity (and despite what may suggest the annual volume of protein powder sales), attention must be paid to the quality and timing of intake of these proteins or amino acids constituting . This is another subject. Clearly, and this is of course only a statistical average, let us remember that overall Western sportsman consumes enough animal protein.
  • Food protein does not mean animal protein. Indeed, the qualitative recommendations with regard to the amino acids constituting the proteins are to privilege approximately 50% of proteins of animal origin and 50% of vegetable origin, is in the example of our athlete of 70kg, 40 to 50g per day . Nowadays, the French population consumes globally too much animal protein to the detriment of vegetable proteins, like the developed countries. Vegetable protein consumption has changed little in the world (from 38 to 43 g per person per day), the sources being mainly wheat and rice, then legumes whose consumption has been steadily decreasing since the beginning. last fifty years. But there are many benefits to legumes, oleaginous fruits and vegetable alternatives (soya, peas, beans, lupine, hemp, etc.). Critics will tell you that low bioavailability and the presence of antinutrients must challenge their legitimacy: certainly, and like any food, adopting excessive consumption at the expense of another source can be deleterious. However, vegetable proteins deserve a place of choice in the daily attitude of the athlete and the interest to regularly focus on these sources to reduce the consumption of animal protein (when it is important), especially at dinner, is real. And for the more adventurous, why not focus on insect proteins? 2 billion people already consume it in the world. Beyond the cultural aspect,
  • Privilege local and responsible consumption. In view of all the points developed, you will understand that beyond the ecological impact, the consumption of meat from animals raised intensively, doped with hormones and antibiotics, eating themselves large quantities cereals resulting from a monoculture full of pesticides or fodder, whose nutritional value must be questioned, particularly because of the consequence of these forages on the lipid profile of meat, deserves a real reflection.
  • The stakes around the consumption of animal proteins also concern, and above all, the way of breeding and cultivation. To answer the logic of the yield of the last fifty years, the main answer was to privilege the cultures and intensive breeding. However, there are alternative methods such as permaculture, making some evidence of profitability to pale conventional methods and providing mainly a comprehensive response, respectful of the ecosystem.

 

I regularly get the chance to collaborate on local agriculture and livestock projects that offer great alternative solutions, social, economic, environmental or nutritional. There are many alternative projects, constructive and non-dogmatic, proven and just waiting to grow. To hear that farmers or ranchers do not dare to eat their own production in terms of the way animals are raised is unacceptable and reflects the urgent need to reconsider with much more respect what we put on our plates, for our health and for everyone. It is not a question of completely eliminating animal proteins, such an initiative coming first and foremost from personal choices or even convictions, but to become aware of the importance of our individual food choices on our health and on their collective consequences. Reducing the share of animal protein among high consumers to products from a short and local sector, while giving pride of place to vegetable proteins, can only be beneficial for everyone at all levels. Which does not mean that you have to ban the ribs between friends. But after all that, who will dare to post this article in a gym …? for all and at all levels. Which does not mean that you have to ban the ribs between friends. But after all that, who will dare to post this article in a gym …? for all and at all levels. Which does not mean that you have to ban the ribs between friends. But after all that, who will dare to post this article in a gym …?