There are now over 1.2 million UK residents are now choosing a vegetarian diet and the environmental issues associated with high consumption of meat and dairy are coming under increasing scrutiny. Giki looks at some of the issues to consider when deciding whether to eat meat or not. We also dig into what to look out for on the label next time you’re in the supermarket.


This is for many vegetarians a factor in avoiding meat. Meat production, particularly red meat is carbon intensive. Not only does livestock produce methane (otherwise known as farting), which is a potent greenhouse gas, but production of feed for livestock, also has impact. Cattle produce 62% of all livestock emissions. And if you take a look at the carbon emissions of vegetables compared to meat, the stats speak for themselves:
  • Vegetables generate just 1 kilogram (kg) of carbon dioxide per kg of food
  • Chicken, fish and pork generate 4-6 times that amount
  • Beef and lamb can generate a huge 15-20 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of food


This is clearly one of the most pertinent issues. If it is battery farming, or living conditions generally that concern you then go for meat with higher animal welfare standards. For example, organic meat tends to have better standards as does anything certified by RSPCA assured. Free range also provides improved conditions – however, for some people, this does not go far enough:

What does free range actually mean?

  • Birds have access, for at least half their lifetime, to continuous daytime access to open air runs comprising an area mainly covered by vegetation. Chickens get at least 1m2 each ; ducks 2m2 and turkeys 4m2 each.
  • Beak trimming is allowed and this does help to avoid chickens pecking each. However, many organisations, such as the RSPCA, ideally want to see this phased out in the long term.


Use of antibiotics in animals has led to serious concerns regarding threats to human health, due to increased antibiotic resistance as a result of over-use. They are used routinely to stave off infection in highly concentrated living conditions. Increasingly consumers are keen to avoid meat with high antibiotic usage. The simplest approach here is to go organic. Meat which is organically certified has restrictions on antibiotic usage – for example, routine use is not permitted in Soil Association certified organic meat.


So clearly there are environmental and welfare issues associated with meat consumption. Here is a quick guide on how to address those concerns:
  1. You’re concerned about environmental issues – reduce meat consumption, especially red meat, or go vegetarian. If you cut out red meat, this can cut the carbon footprint of your diet by up to 25% and a diet without red meat reduces the amount of land needed to feed you by over 40% because of all the land needed for animal feed and grazing. Much of the animal feed grown comes from Brazil and threatens the Amazon with more wild fires and deforestation. If you go vegetarian, it will cut the carbon footprint of your diet by up to 40%
  2. You’re concerned about welfare issues – buy organic, RSPCA assured, or free range.
  3. You’re concerned about anti-biotic over-use: buy organic
  You can use Giki on UK supermarket products to check the carbon footprint, animal welfare standards and whether a product is organic.

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