No more hamburgers? How ‘clean meat’ could transform our diets


For many, the hamburger’s combination of bun, meat and salad is the perfect marriage of simplicity, flavor and familiarity. Whether it’s a gourmet patty with shavings of truffle, or a cheap and cheerful offering from a fast food outlet, today’s diners are spoilt for choice.   

Our hunger for burgers does, however, have an impact on the environment. Take ground beef: it’s one of the key ingredients in a burger and comes from rearing cattle.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has previously said that emissions from global livestock amount to an estimated 7.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.

Breaking things down, cattle — reared for beef, milk and manure, among other things — represent roughly 65% of emissions from the livestock sector.  

Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the Brussels-based International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), said meat production has a major impact on climate change through three channels.

“First of all, livestock ruminates, and large amounts of methane gas is the result,” he told CNBC.

“Secondly, we need to produce feedstock for the animals — maize, soy beans in particular — and for this we need to clear large forest areas, so deforestation is driven by livestock production,” he added.

“And thirdly, we need to produce fertilizers to grow the soy beans, the maize from which this feedstock shall be made, and that too is a source of greenhouse gas emissions.”



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