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The Meat Atlas: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Where Your Food Comes From

The next time you bite into that hamburger, here’s something to consider: 60% of a cow is inedible, which means a lot of animal was wasted to make your dinner. If you ordered a steak, know that over 1,800 gallons of water are required to produce one 16-ounce porterhouse. If you’d swapped that red meat for cricket, on the other hand, you’d be doing the environment a huge favor. 80% of the insect is edible and it drinks water from the sky.


And here’s another fun fact: leading beef processing corporation JBS SA can slaughter 85,000 head of cattle, 70,000 pigs, and 12 million birds worldwide. Every day.

These are just a sampling of the sobering data highlighted in The Meat Atlas, a colorful compendium of 26 topics and 80 graphics on where our meat comes from and how it ends up on our plates. It’s the work of Friends of the Earth Europe, a grassroots environmental network that advocates for sustainable agriculture that supports family farms and reduces the impact on developing countries.

But The Meat Atlas isn’t a scare campaign. It’s an educational tool to understand how the world’s largest factory farms have wide-reaching economic and environmental consequences. Nor is the FoEE trying to turn us all vegan. As the Atlas points out, there are alternatives to meat production that “respect environmental and health considerations and provide appropriate conditions for animals.” In other words, the FoEE isn’t overtly scolding you for that hamburger. It wants to help omnivores (along with vegetarians, vegans, and pescetarians) make smarter decisions and, hopefully, influence policy. Because if we don’t change the way our cows and pigs are produced, we very well may end up eating cricket, like it or not.

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