Sustainable Consumption Of Meat And Fish: Its Effects On The Environment

What Is Sustainable Consumption?

Sustainable consumption is the usage of products and services in such a manner as to minimize the impact on the environment, so that human needs can be fulfilled not only in the present but also to meet the requirements of the future generations.

When sustainable consumption is practiced, resources are wisely consumed and waste products are reduced to a minimum. This can be achieved by doing more and better with less.

In other words, we can look for methods to meet our needs and requirements without depleting our planet’s finite natural resources.

Meat Consumption:

Meat is an essential part of heritage and identity. It is considered a cultural staple food in many countries across the world. However, with a rising global middle class, societies have started becoming meat obsessed.

It is more prevalent in rich nations whose appetite for beef, pork and processed chicken have reached a peak point. The research is quite clear – a diet heavy in meat increases the risk of obesity, cancer and heart diseases.

Not to forget the effects it has on our environment; it makes the planet sick. The livestock sector, raising cows, chicken and pigs, emit an almost equal amount of greenhouse gases as cars, trucks, automobiles and other vehicles combined.

Cattle ranchers have cleared up millions of square kilometers of forests to provide grazing pastures, decimating natural ‘carbon sinks’. Producing meat has a bigger impact on the environment than almost any other human activity.

Raising and feeding animals for meat consumes more land and freshwater than any other industry, and the industry’s waste byproducts are among the top sources of water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions around the globe.

Most of these effects are concentrated in the United States, where factory farming has its stronghold, but it is now rapidly spreading to other parts of the world including Latin America.

Every year, more than nine billion farm animals are slaughtered for human consumption based on researches from United States alone.

What Can We Do?

The meat industry can minimize many of these impacts through better farming practices for sourcing feed and raising livestock; these may include, cover cropping, fertilizer management, conservation of native vegetation, feed improvements, and centralized manure processing.

Considerable meat producers such as Tyson and Cargill that have taken major control over the market have the power to dramatically improve the supply chain.

Unfortunately, yet to date they have done little – ignoring public concerns and allowing environmentally damaging practices for feeding and raising meat expand largely unchecked.

However, consumers have now started paying attention. Consumer campaigns regarding animal welfare have forced meat companies to modify their practices to start addressing these issues.

As more people have started recognizing the meat industry’s environmental impacts, a groundswell of customers, shareholders, farmers, workers, and community members are beginning to as for basic environmental safeguards from agribusinesses and food companies alike.

These demands are highly essential for protecting ecosystem stability, public health, and the ability of our food system to sustain an increasing global population.

Fish Consumption:

The conservation of aquatic flora and fauna is greatly affected by external factors such as increase in water temperature and the acidification of seas and oceans.

Furthermore, excess exploitation of marine species as a food source also acts as a threat to ocean life, not only by destructive fishing techniques but also by the lack of responsible fish consumption.

What Can We Do?

We being consumers of fish can do quite a few things to help in the conservation of marine species. Following are a series of guidelines which are important to ensure the sustainability of the system;

1. Demand Labelling:

It is necessary to only buy products with an official labeling that contains all the information required by the competent authorities.

2. Check The Fishing Method:

Sustainable Consumption of fish and seafood guarantees the conservation and continuity of the species and also provides opportunities of a higher quality employment in the fishing sector.

Aggressive or destructive techniques of fishing will cause species to disappear at a much faster rate.

3. Choose Local Consumption:

Buying products that have been obtained in nearby or local areas assures guaranty of more sustainable fishing, as well as a lower level of carbon dioxide pollution by reducing transport routes.

4. Consume Seasonal Fish:

The consumers should be aware and well-informed about which products are from the season, this helps them to choose the most sustainable-and tasty- option all year long depending on their geographical location.

5. Aquaculture:

Aquaculture is the use of techniques of breeding marine species that can be carried out in the natural environment or in facilities provided for that purpose.

Furthermore, aquaculture allows almost absolute control of fish farming and life conditions, which enhances its quality and fishing becomes less stressful than open sea.


The implementation of these basic steps is extremely important today than it was in the previous years since consumption levels are rapidly increasing all over the world.

According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States), the consumption level exceeded 20 kilograms per person for the first time in history.

Even though the global consumption has greatly increased, the United Nations agency reports that the world reserves have not improved their levels at all, therefore, if the consumption rates keep on increasing without a proper sustainable strategy, fishing ground will soon be plundered.

We are not advocating that everyone adopt a “meatless” diet starting tomorrow. But we all must surely develop “meat consciousness” and decrease the level of meat and fish as part of our daily diets.

Transferring to more plant-based foods is crucial in combating climate change, soil, air and water pollution, ocean dead zones, and other innumerable problems caused by industrial livestock production.

If we take a step toward eating fewer meals with meat including fish, we can definitely have a huge impact on our collective health and the health of our planet.

Alexa Opal Hamilton

Alexa Opal Hamilton is the author of three books and her genres range from dystopian Sci-fi to Romance. She is also a comedy writer who has written sitcom spec scripts, along with hilariously animated blogs and comic strips. Born and raised in west Texas, Alexa now travels all over North America (usually moving twice a year) with her hockey-player husband and two children. When she's not writing, Alexa enjoys reading, running and spending time with her family.

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