We already know that we should eat less meat for the sake of the planet – the United Nations has said reduced meat consumption would help curb greenhouse emissions. While many ardent environmentalists are vegetarian, initiatives like Meatless Monday are trying to encourage all of us to do our part, as well.
So meat production helps cause global warming. But did you know that climate change might also affect the quality of meat? According to New Scientist: “Pork chops will become soggier and paler as the world warms, while steaks could be dark and smelly”.
It’s all to do with the effects of heat on the animal’s energy, or glycogen, reserves. The flesh from pigs that become heat-stressed on the way to the slaughterhouse will acidify more quickly, so the meat resembles “soggy white blotting paper”. While heat-stressed cows run out of glycogen before slaughter, darkening their meat.
It all adds up to less “mmm” and more “hmm”.
Millions of cattle and sheep make long sea journeys every year in cramped, over-heated conditions as part of the livestock trade. So far the best solution scientists have been able to come up with has been to spike the drinking water with sports energy drinks. But if we are to keep eating meat in a climate-changed world, we are going to have to come up with a better solution.
We could start by scaling back meat consumption – most of us could handle more plant foods in our diet anyway – and focusing on quality over quantity. Then we could decentralise the meat industry, rear livestock in natural conditions on farms, transport them to a local abbatoirs only a few miles away and eat them close to where they were raised. Doesn’t it just make sense?
Image: The Busy Brain