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Overall, about one third of the 14 billion hectares of cultivated land in the world is covered by plants to feed animals. Intensive production of meat is increasingly concentrated: transnational company Cargill, for instance, controls 22 per cent of the US meat market, it is Argentina´s largest exporter and its turnover amounts to 32.5 billion dollars.
However, Cargill is not the largest company in the meat industry. The world´s largest meat producer is Tyson Food.
This information is included in Friends of the Earth Europe´s most recent publication, titled “Meat Atlas”, launched in mid January (see: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/foee_hbf_meatatlas_jan2014.pdf).
In interview with Real World Radio, Friends of the Earth Europe´s food and agriculture campaigner, Stanka Becheva, said that, on average, meat consumption in the world is rising and that industrial facilities for meat production are increasingly larger, more intensive and use more and more animals.
“In general, we can see as well that consumption in some countries or parts of the world like the European Union and the US is either declining or stable. But we see a lot of increase in meat consumption, especially in Asia, where by 2022 there is an expected growth of around 80 per cent”, said Becheva.
The activist explained that the meat market is highly concentrated, with big transnational corporations often operating in several production sectors. For instance, companies that focus on growing GM soy in regions such as Latin America through monoculture plantations and large-scale agrotoxics, then use the crop in their own farms for feedlots in Europe or the US. Meat is then exported to different countries.
Nevertheless, meat production using “feedlots” is already happening in numerous developing countries, including in Latin America. The world meat market, in its different stages, generates serious environmental (particularly land and water), social and even sanitary problems.
“When we say that consuming high amounts of meat is not healthy, we mean it is not healthy for the planet, but also not for the people”, said Becheva. “There are studies showing that high amounts of meat consumption are causing different diseases. We can see as well that factory farms in Europe or the US use big amounts of antibiotics, for example, which can cause the development of resistant bacteria”, she added.
Friends of the Earth Europe´s aim with the “Meat Atlas” publication was to link the different issues around meat production and consumption at world level. In this way, the new publication also highlights the high emission of greenhouse gases involved in the global cattle sector, which cause climate change. Becheva also made reference to figures by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pointing out that livestock is responsible for over 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Becheva also denounced the lack of transparency in the world food chain.
Nevertheless, Friends of the Earth Europe´s new publication shows that as intensive meat production grows in some regions, in others, small-scale, sustainable cattle farming plays a key role, such as in Africa, for the local economy and for the livelihoods of families.
“We would like to see this small-scale cattle production supported through consumers’ choices in the market, (…) trying to have better links with the local farmers”, said Becheva. She also highlighted the importance of public policies that support this kind of production.
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