There are more trees on Earth than stars in our galaxy...
But these days, global forests are disappearing at a rate of football fields per minute.
The biggest reason for deforestation isn't to obtain wood; it's to free up land for farming cows.
England used to be almost 80% forest, and now it’s mostly farmland.
You may already agree that reforestation needs to occur on a grand scale. The land to do this needs to come from somewhere, and the best way to free it up is to reforest farms.
This chart shows the relative land demands of different protein sources.
You can get the same amount of protein, and massively reduce your land-burden by eating pork, chicken, eggs, or even better: plants.
In the UK about 20% of farmland produces 80% of the food. Why? Because that 20% is growing plants. The rest is used to raise animals: a much less efficient way to make food (especially in the case of beef).
Why Does Beef Take Up So Much Land?
Cows evolved to eat grass, which is something that very few animals can do.
But the process of eating grass is incredibly inefficient.
Cows have to eat a minimum of 6 times their body weight in grass to fully grow.
In comparison, a chicken can grow to full size eating less than twice its body weight.
It’s worse than it sounds, because chickens can eat a full diet of high energy crops. Cows have to eat a lot of grass, which takes even more land to grow.
The consequence is that to produce an equal amount of food, beef needs about 28x more land than chicken and pork.
Combined with the enormous number of cows on the planet, this means that an unbelievable amount of our land is used for cows.
Farms take up about 40% of all global land.
In the USA, farms take up around 50% of the land.
Of this land, around 70% is used for raising or feeding cows.
This means that about 1/3 of the USA is used for cows.
If all the land used for beef production in the USA were converted to growing other protein sources, the world's protein supply could increase by 50%.
The global population is expanding, but this doesn’t mean that farming has to keep expanding.
We could hugely reduce the land we need for farms if we reduced our consumption of meat… especially beef, since cows take up such a huge amount of land to make a small amount of food!
If we do keep claiming more land for farms, then we’re going to keep destroying more wild habitats, accelerating the rate of global extinctions.
You might be worried that if you switch from beef to something like soy, you could be further contributing to driving global extinctions…
…but actually, the main global consumer of soy is beef cattle, and because cows store the protein in soy so inefficiently, you can potentially reduce the amount of soy produced in the world by eating soy instead of beef.
Why? Because, to produce one steak, a cow needs to eat soy containing the protein of 20 steaks.
It’s best to avoid soy grown in parts of the world where rainforests are being destroyed, but the most important thing is that you avoid beef.
(this partly depends on where you live - in the UK, most cows aren’t fed on soy, but in the US, most are)