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Is soy a key driver of deforestation? (ourworldindata.org)
110 points by sohkamyung 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 141 comments

Summary: in practice yes, but sneakily not directly, because those areas are first turned into pastures. However, once used up, they are then turned into soy bean fields. This also circumvents legislation specific to the rainforest area against deforestation to plant soy beans, because, well, it happened indirectly.

As other comments here also bring up, direct human consumption accounts for about a fifth of all produced soy beans, with only six being in the forms consumers directly probably think of (tofu, edamame, etc.), and the other 14 in the shape of e.g. soy bean oil.

The main driver for all this production (and hence deforestation), however, at a whopping 77%, is to be a source of cheap livestock feed.

This is what the article says. It does not, directly anyway, make any health or environmental claims regarding one diet over another.

Deforestation of the rain forest is bad. We all know this. And because it is only done to meet demands from consumers, what we as consumers can do is demand access to supply chain insight so we can then avoid products that come from this horribly shortsighted process. Regardless of whether said product is a piece of meat, a bottle of oil, or a block of tofu.

Or, you know, eat less meat.

I’m not expecting anyone to go vegan or even vegetarian (I’m neither). But if we all eat a small portion of meat once or twice a week instead of large portions every day, demand for soy will go way down.

Indeed. Even if eating meat caused zero deforestation (directly or indirectly), it's super inefficient. If everyone stopped eating meat, 75% of the land used for farming could be re-wilded. That land area is something like China, the US, the EU, and Australia... combined.

I'm not vegetarian, but after seeing the results of deforestation first hand I've reduced my meat intake substantially. Side benefits included improved cooking abilities and lost weight without trying.

Exactly. Going full vegan requires real effort to get enough of all nutrients you need. A vegetable-heavy diet with little animal products on the other hand easily gives you everything, without any vitamin pills, and reduces your carbon footprint almost as much. It's also psychologically easier as you can still enjoy good steak or whatever you like every now and then.

I highly recommend chickpeas and fava beans in particular. Much better for stomach than kidney beans, and perfect for many kinds of rice and pasta dishes. Fava beans are also very easy to grow outside in most climates if you're into gardening and have the space.

> Exactly. Going full vegan requires real effort to get enough of all nutrients you need.

This is really not true with the possible exception of iron, which you can mitigate by eating a lot of citrus (this helps with absorption; plants have lots of iron, but heme iron has much greater bio-availability).

I am not vegan since I eat dairy and eggs still, however this is purely because I enjoy them and not for any particular dietary reason. I allow myself these luxuries while understanding that's what they are: luxuries, not requirements. We are all human, after all, and we can't all be monks who optimize every behavior. I think it's important to be honest about that and truthful about our motivations when we decide to eat animal products, because it is really not by necessity (at least, not in the western world, where plant-based alternatives are affordable and readily purchased).

If everybody ate mostly soy and legumes it would solve a lot of problems, even if they still have a steak or cheese every now and then. But they don't need to have that steak or cheese to be healthy :)

I've been a vegetarian and sometime vegan for coming up to 25 years now, and I fully agree. If people cut down on meat just so they could use that money towards a couple of really good pieces of meat in the week, not only would that cut their meat consumption it would also improve their enjoyment of food, let alone all the other benefits.

"A vegetable-heavy diet with little animal products on the other hand easily gives you everything, without any vitamin pills"

yeah that's because you are indirectly consuming those vitamins that have been given to the animals...

Veganism just draws an arbitrary line, wasn't scientifically selected for ecological benefits or any scientific health basis.

Look at honey - obviously good for you, obviously sustainable, not allowed in the vegan diet.

Conventional beekeepers aim to harvest the maximum amount of honey, with high honey yields being viewed as a mark of success. When farmers remove honey from a hive, they replace it with a sugar substitute which is significantly worse for the bees’ health since it lacks the essential micro-nutrients of honey.


Humans can live without honey, bees need to survive.

You are aware that tofu/tempeh/s. milk are made out of soy, right? I'm seriously concerned that one mass production (meat) will turn to another. The mass producers need to sell.

I hope my comment does not start a carnivore vs vegan war (as just like you, I'm neither).

Meat production requires a magnitude more soy (in raw materials) to produce the same output as e.g. tofu/tempeh/soy milk production.

A large part of cattle feed soy is based on leftovers from the food industry.

It's the other way around. According to the article, 77% of soy production goes to animal feed.

or is the soy oil a way to make more money off of animal feed?

you're absolutely right - preparing a high quality beef meal takes a lot more than just processing soy, but what I was aiming at was that we will replace one mass consumption with the other, just like we always do and that may mask the problem but I believe it won't solve it. I could be wrong though.

> but what I was aiming at was that we will replace one mass consumption with the other, just like we always do and that may mask the problem but I believe it won't solve it

You're comparing two cases of "mass production" without any quantifier.

Beef has an over 15 times larger carbon footprint compared to tofu.


So sure, if everyone switches we would substitute one mass production for another, but we could feed 15 times as many people (all else equal).

The issue is not judt the extra procesding cost.

I haven't ran the numbers, but parent hinted at a cow needing to eat, say, 10 Kg of soy per Kg of meat produced, while you could have just eaten the soy directly.

Meat production uses a lot of land to produce food for your food, that's why it's so inneficient. Instead you could just use a tiny fraction of that land, and grow enough food for everyone.

That would still be a good thing. If everybody would switch from cow's milk to soy milk we would cut green house gase emissions by two thirds. The affects on land and water usage are even greater. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46654042

I agree with your point, but: Eating it directly would be a lot mor efficient use of that soy and would decrease the demand for soy anyway.

But it is more efficient. Less soy needed for soy product then for the same meat calories.

Why not grass fed meat then there’s no soy at all!

Because that does not work on scale.

This discussion is about how producing meat requires tons and tons of land in the form of soy bean fields that feed the animals, which indirectly and directly contributes to deforestation. Now you come along and say, just eat meat produced using this other method which takes a lot MORE land for the same amount of meat production?

But our fields are already grass - we don’t need to deforest to grow any soy at all.

No they're not, at least they're not pasture. They're either already farmed fields or they're wild meadows. Putting meadows to intense use would destroy whole ecosystems that may look like "just grass" from afar, and farmed fields are obviously already in use.

> No they're not, at least they're not pasture.

Thanks for telling me what the fields around me are!

I don't think anyone in this whole thread was talking about your local fields here.

There's not enough grass-land in the world for everyone to eat grass-fed beef. That's the whole point of not feeding them grass in the first place.

It’s a massive waste of land though.

How is it wasting land to feed cattle on it? It’s often not doing anything else.

Any land reclaimed from livestock feeding could be returned to nature, be it rainforests in Brazil or woodlands in Europe. Livestock uses a massive amount of agricultural land in comparison to plant production meant for direct human consumption.

It's just a very very simple math based on the amount of crops it takes to grow animals for meat -- and soy is much more efficient than grass in that sense, so your suggestion would make things decidedly worse for environment.

I don't know what you know about European agriculture, but woodlands in Europe aren't 'nature' in any primitive sense.

If the grass pasture is already there in cycle, it's not being used for anything else. Might as well put cattle on it.

> but woodlands in Europe aren't 'nature' in any primitive sense.

Europe is varied, not sure where you live but the forests in Northern/North-Central Europe that I'm familiar with absolutely do support wildlife. I think it shouldn't be controversial that returning agricultural land to nature, whatever "nature" means in different areas, is good for environment.

Anyway, this is wildly beside the point, which is that pasture feeding cattle can't satisfy the current demand for meat, not even close. Converting soy fields to grazing fields would be an ecological disaster without a serious decrease in worldwide meat consumption, as the yields would be far lower.

> Converting soy fields to grazing fields

But why would you do that? Don't cut down forests for soy, and don't cut it down for pasture either. Use existing green grass fields to feed cattle. This can be done in between crop rotations.

> without a serious decrease in worldwide meat consumption

Maybe that's the point?

Eat less (if you want to eat at all) and eat grass-fed. Do cattle even choose to eat soy when they have green grass available?

> Maybe that's the point? Eat less (if you want to eat at all) and eat grass-fed. Do cattle even choose to eat soy when they have green grass available?

Eating less meat was the point from the start as the main/only way to decrease soy footprint, so if you're not suggesting to replace soy feed with grass then this whole discussion was in the end more or less pointless.

Livestock has been raised in Europe for Millenia with no soy anywhere near them. Grass grazed cattle & chickens are completely sustainable and beneficial to the environment they're on. Sourced locally they're a fuckton healthier and less polluting than shipping soy and avocados across the planet.

Monocrops are terrible for the planet & wildlife, and are only even viable due to heavy use of pesticides & NPK fertliser.

Organic farming requires large amounts of animal manure to work, guess where it comes from?

Please go read about regenerative agriculture - that's the way forward.

>If the grass pasture is already there in cycle, it's not being used for anything else. Might as well put cattle on it.

This is true, technically speaking. Practically, you couldn't produce even a fraction of the amount of meat that the market wants using this way. If all meat was grass fed meat, it would be a luxury good. I don't think that would be too bad to be honest, it would lead to much less meat consumption overall.

Basically, "just eat grass fed meat" = "everyone must eat a lot less meat, unless they're rich I guess"

Cattle is also disastrous for the water supply. Unfortunately, mass production of meat is just very expensive for the health of the planet.

Not all land is a good pasture. In many parts of the world, good pasture are also efficient carbon sinks. In my part of the world those carbon sinks are rare (only about 10% of pastures are carbon sinks), and the few that are good are even better as farmland.

That overlap is not 100%. Some good pasture is bad farmland, but the claim that good pasture is good farmland is a good rule of thumb

Why not? I went vegan, it's pretty good.

Echoing this sentiment. I spent years doing mental gymnastics to justify my meat and dairy consumption. Going vegan was a great release of that mental tension.

I don’t need to do any gymnastics, cheese just tastes so good. Probably the least healthy thing I eat, and most difficult to limit.

I don’t need or crave sugar, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, tea... but cheese, yogurt, milk, and their derivations are irresistible.


If guilt tripping turned people vegan, everyone would be vegan by now (seriously, who hasn't heard at least one berate them like this?). Given that this isn't the case, perhaps you can come up with something that is a little more convincing.

There's nothing wrong with restating the facts.

Your argument could be applied to a host of topics. The truth is, the vast majority of people aren't willing to change. For example, heart disease is the biggest killer in the world and yet people still don't take the required steps to prevent themselves of suffering from that disease.

> There's nothing wrong with restating the facts.

Sure, but it's still counterproductive. Most people respond to guilt by just digging their heels in. When you want to convince someone to give up something dear to their heart, you have to tread carefully.

> There's nothing wrong with restating the facts.

There's nothing inherently wrong with anything. That said, they're being restated for a reason and unless that reason is the satisfaction of reading the post or hearing the words out of your own mouth, restating these facts doesn't make any sense.

The main causes of heart disease in the US are sugar, excessive carbs and smoking, not Saturday morning bacon.

Highly refined carbs are certainly a problem. Regardless of your opinion, red meat - including processed meat such as bacon - is also a cause of coronary heart disease.

"We found that greater intakes of total, unprocessed, and processed red meat were each associated with a higher risk of CHD. Compared with total, unprocessed, or processed red meat, other dietary components such as soy, nuts, and legumes were associated with a lower risk of CHD." [1]

[1] https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4141

This study suffers from severe methodological flaws, which the authors acknowledge (having made their research questions explicit), but alas it is used in ways that extrapolate the findings to conclusions unsupported by the study.

In particular, the findings are entirely compatible with 1. The possibility that meat will lead to a reduction in risk if used in the same kinds of dishes as the nuts and legumes in this study 2. Nuts and legumes will lead to an increase in risk if used in the same kinds of dishes as the hotdogs and burgers which were the focus of the study.

I've seen people (not you) dump citations like this to claim health benefits for crap like facon, which is deepfried coconut infused in liquid smoke, at the same time as branding a caesar salad a cardiac risk.

wooger 4 days ago [flagged]

Your addiction to breathing causes harm to the environment, so selfish.

You can, however, live without cheese. You cannot without breathing.

Can u message me ur recipes?

Just doesn’t have the same sensation, I’ve tried all the latest modern vegan stuff and it just replaces things that actually would be the lighter more flavorful parts of the meal with stodge.

There is no vegan food alternative to say a rare steak or raw tuna which is extremely flavorful, nutritious and light.

I've found that the cheaper processed meats (chicken, burgers etc.) have the most convincing plant-based alternatives, usually from soy protein. Any seafood or dishes where the meat is the main flavour such as steak there's just no alternative that comes anywhere close; same goes for vegan alternatives to cheese. What I found most helpful when going vegetarian was realising that it's not an all-or-nothing type situation, and if I can go completely vegetarian except for eating tuna or steak a couple times a month then that's better than not trying at all, even though that's not an argument I've really seen repeated all that much on the internet.

It looks like your stance has a name: https://www.lesswasteworld.com/blog-1/2019/4/24/low-impact-e...

reducitarian: reducing proportion of non vegetarian meals without complete elimination

Some strategies for achieving this include meatless Mondays, weekday vegetarian meals or sticking to vegetarian meals at home.

That’s like saying there is no animal faster than a horse for transportation... until you realize you don’t need animals at all to get you to your goal. Yes you can’t replace the experience of a steak, but you can replace the satisfying meal with something non-meat (I’m not vegetarian).

I agree imitation meat usually tastes like crap but I’ve had great vegan fried chicken in Japan where I didn’t even know it was not meat until after the meal. That and just getting used to all the non-meat stuff you can eat (ramen, MSG, bean curd, legumes, kimchi). In American cuisine i think of vegan food as imitation meat and stramed veggies...

I think what most people associate with meat is actually the flavors that go into the meat-centric dish most cuisine is based on.

My point is nothing hits that specific sensation that rare steak and raw tuna hits. Avocado is maybe the closest managing to hit the fatty sensation similar to the tuna but still has a stodge sensation too while the tuna doesn't and can't possibly replicate the mix of freshness and Maillard reaction of steak.

There's a good reason steak is such a common food for vegetarians to give in and eat.

"I think what most people associate with meat is actually the flavors that go into the meat-centric dish most cuisine is based on."

Don't forget to add some MSG to get a savory umami flavour.

Some people enjoy horse riding.

And some people are cannibals.

Cool, but horse riding is legal, regulated as a sport, whereas cannibalism is, you know, illegal.

Like someone else said downthread, guilt-tripping people into veganism doesn't work. All it achieves is making you look like an ass.

Also, if you use Google Chrome, you're literally a murderer.

I'm not a vegan, so I'd be a pretty terrible liar if I was trying to guilt trip others into being something I'm not.

My point was that if you think in terms of meat, or horses, you'll only be able to come up with solutions to your problems in those terms.

If you go one level up and realize that your problem has nothing to do with horses or animals, and deals with transportation then you'll realize you can solve that problem and never have to deal with horses again.

People enjoying horse riding is in fact a completely unrelated problem (entertainment, enjoyment, or whatever you want to call it), as I was making the point by mentioning cannibalism (you're doing it because you enjoy it, not because human flesh is necessary for your sustenance).

If you open your mind to the fact that it may be that what you enjoy about your food isn't the meat but the flavors and effort the chef puts into the dish that just happens to contain meat, you'll see that you're probably associating that deliciousness with the meat when in fact it's just because the deliciousness was imbued onto the meat dish. We started using meat because of its convenience, not because it has some magical properties that make food palatable where other things cannot substitute.

I personally am not vegan because animal welfare is not high enough in my priorities to overcome the hassles of adjusting around the current bias towards meat in most cuisine. But if most cuisine started orienting around non-meat dishes (and a lot of cultures already do this, especially from countries that historically couldn't afford meat), I know I would not complain.

It's uniquely American (maybe European too?) to eat a giant slab of relatively cheap lean steak with just salt and pepper... most other cuisines mix meat with veggies, or in the case of Japan go for slightly higher quality (non-factory farmed) but lower volume meat consumption. Veggies in American cuisine are an afterthought (something you have to eat to "balance" your meal) whereas if you take Chinese dishes (while many feature meat), they can often center around veggies and make them the primary focus.

I'll be direct and to the point: I'd rather slit my wrists than drop meat long-term.

I find most vegan food distateful to the point of depression-inducing, and of all diets I've tried nothing has felt better for my body than going low-carb and upping my fat intake; which is nigh-impossible in an already limited vegan diet.

I'm happy that it works for some people, and I'm not against economically reasonable measures to reduce the externalities of meat production. But veganism is absolutely nowhere near being a universally viable diet for human beings.

I am sure the market will find other uses for it. For instance Soy Plastic. https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_Report.cfm?Lab=NCE...

There is no way personal choice affects industry enough to make a difference. Regulation effects it much much more. If you don't want people eating meat, reduce all the subsidies and make meat price sky rocket, problem reduced.

Say it with me, there is no such thing as the free market, there is no such thing as buying your way into fixing environmental problems, some exception though may be found in religion where certain things are banned so it's so socially unacceptable to eat those things that it may well be codified into law. When it comes to fixing these things, it's politics all the way down. Policy, regulation, and enforcement. Also private ownership of the land with terms of ownership saying you can't do anything to this land, through zoning laws. You want to be an environmental billionaire, buy all this land and do nothing with it because you can't and because it's privately owned the government can't decide to let people use it to create jobs, they could however rezone it.

And less dairy. Or less animal-sourced dairy but instead dairy made from grass in a fermentor.


There appears to be no product here, just a blurb that reads like it was workshopped by a marketing company.

The marketing is indeed heavy.

There is a lab behind it investigating how to make a grass-based product that can be used instead of milk even for making cheese. That means getting microorganisms to create the right proteins from ground up grass in a fermentor.

Tips from yeast experts are welcome:


Or at least select meat from local sources who aren't fed soy beans. And prefer chicken over beef. Preferrably also eco-friendly meat.

The animal was fed something we could have eaten. It doesn’t do us much good to shun soy fed beef for corn fed beef. Agree with you on local and chicken.

>The animal was fed something we could have eaten

Not necessarily - I don't know about where you're from, but here our cows and sheep eat grass and live in fields that wouldn't be suitable for crops

Research is underway to process grass into a milk-substitute. It's a matter of making microorganisms that create the right mix of proteins from ground grass. Plenty of food is already created this way. E.g. microbial rennet is made up from proteolytic enzymes grown in a fermentor and natural (as opposed to chemical) vanillin can be made by a microbe.

If you select meat marked with (certain? most?) eco labels the animals are mostly fed grass or similar.

I tried finding the English page corresponding to https://www.wwf.se/mat-och-jordbruk/kottguiden/ekologiskt-no... but failed ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

there's actually an interesting argument that i first heard Diane Fleischman pose -- that chicken is worse than beef on a calorie/animal measure and so would harm more animals because it takes more chickens to feed x people than it does cows, and so more animals suffer for the same amount of food produced.

But then you can argue that mammal suffering is exponentially worse than bird suffering, or fish.

I don't think you can make the argument that a cow is exponentially more intelligent than a chicken.

I'd actually make the argument that most dairy cattle have a much better life than any but the most "organic" chicken. Speaking for the situation here in Germany, where I studied veterinary medicine.

Mammal vs Fish is a very different question.

Also, who knows? Maybe plants suffer the most of all species. Going from the other side for humans the circle of empathy is increasing including now all mankind and on the verge to expand to mammals.

since when does suffering has to do with intelligence?

In the West we probably eat "too much" meat.

But if you consider the way demand increases because of the scale of the world population and economic growth (i.e. people are getting richer and want to finally be able to afford and enjoy meat) the bottom line is that, when it comes to environmental issues, we also need to reduce the global human population sooner than later because this really is the root cause.

We have enough insight into the supply chain to know that the block of tofu is not the driver of the problem.

Soybeans have a high protein yield, hence why they're grown for feed. The plant fixates nitrogen as alluded to above. Soy is a complete protein, albeit with an amino acid profile that is not quite as similar to human muscle tissue as some meat.

It is a miracle plant! Soybeans are easy to prepare and taste fantastic, and can form the core of a healthy diet.

I assume you mean 6% and 14% to sum to the human consumption 20%, in the second paragraph?

We need to drastically reduce meat consumption by producing viable artificial replacements (artificially grown muscle meat) as soon as possible.

We need to stop eating meat on this scale but you will never be able to convince more than a subset of people. You have to take it away or replace it with something of equal (!) quality.

It's insane how damaging (and evil) beef production is.

Disclaimer: I eat quite a lot of meat but since earning good money after university have made an effort to buy better quality organic meat whenever possible. I replace some meats entirely with vegan alternatives because in some instances it makes NO difference in taste or even texture.

I would not eat a vegan burger, never bbq a vegan steak. But chili or spaghetti bolognese with vegan ground meat can be really delicious since flavors and texture are overpowered by other ingredients anyways. Same with lots of sandwich meats.

Meat is WAY too cheap for what it is: a climate damaging product for which live animals are brutally tortured and killed. If you have money, please at least buy meat which has animal well-being in mind.

My mind on this was changed after witnessing a botched slaughtering of a pig. I can never get those screams and blood fountains out of my mind. The electrical stunning failed and workers didnt bother to repeat it because... time. Gotta keep producing.

Your mind still didn't change, organic meat is about the same problem, you are killing animals to praise your palate.

What you are saying is: I no longer do normal and plain slavery, I now do organic slavery. Instead of importing people from Africa, I get my slaves from small cities nearby, which are well fed. It's all bullshit and marketing. You aren't anywhere more evolved for eating organic meat. It's hilarious to read your comment, it's basically everything what is wrong in the world. People finding more expensive ways of doing the same trash behaviour "with conscience". I can't believe somebody can fall for this.

Just stop eating meat and start to think of the animals, if you care.

Just like slavery, it took white people centuries to stop being lazy and assholes to stop with it. The same it will be with meat, when people start looking at eating meat as a very nasty thing that our evolved society no longer needs and also becomes unsustainable(we are already very close), people are going to start quitting eating meat.

It is in fact objectively better from a standpoint of pure suffering to eat meat that was treated well before it was a corpse than to eat meat that was treated poorly. It is evident from your post that you consider this an unenlightened standpoint worthy of scorn (and perhaps it is, I don't care). That's nice for you, but there's really no call to talk to other human beings like this when all they've done wrong is not have the same opinions as you.

Maybe it is better, but what part of what he said is not true, do you think?

I don't buy the idea that certain forms of life are more alive and valuable than others. All life is the same. There are plenty of plants that absolutely do not want us to eat them either. All things need food to survive though. You must consume to continue living. There are other problems with eating meat than concerns about killing a living thing, concerns which are much larger. At the very least we do need to be sure to not cause undue suffering in the process, but there is no living without killing other living things.

If you consider that eating plants is unethical, that's great! So you should go vegan, too, as most of our plants go to feed meat animals — thus you can minimize undue plant suffering.

I think you ignore the concept of pain and suffering. There clearly is a difference in pain and suffering between, say bacteria, plants, insects and vertebrates. Or even between vertebrates and Humans.

Studies have proved over the years that plants do suffer and there is no difference.

Are you saying plant suffering and human suffering are comparable? Or did I miss something about the argument?

Do you think equating Africans with animals is the best way to promote veganism?

Where is your head to come up with this logic?

I never said such thing and btw, not that it matters, but my family has a history of being slaved, that's why I put this argument. It doesn't make it any prettier if you are enslaved with or without food, it's still slavery. The same is for eating meat, it doesn't matter if it's organic or not, it's still eating meat.

Do I have to draw for you?

>I would not eat a vegan burger, never bbq a vegan steak. But chili or spaghetti bolognese with vegan ground meat can be really delicious since flavors and texture are overpowered by other ingredients anyways. Same with lots of sandwich meats.

I agree with this. Of course there are some plant-based "substitutes" that are just not the same in terms of taste/texture. It's often easier to just treat them as their own thing -- it's not a replacement for a hamburger, it's just a black bean patty in a bun, and it can be pretty good!

That said, while I'm all in favour of more "substitutes" and lab-grown meat, etc., I think it's also helpful to branch out and try different cuisines that don't rely so heavily on meat. There are plenty of absolutely delicious Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mexican dishes (just to name a few off the top of my head) that are completely vegan. They're not relying on "meat substitutes", they're just....using delicious ingredients that happen to not be made from animals. And those often end up tasting much better than trying to figure out some substitute for a big hunk of steak or whatever.

At any rate, I think ultimately, any attempt people make to cut down the amount of animal products in their diet is a good thing. You don't need to go 100% all beans all the time...but cutting down meat consumption can make a big difference in and of itself.

You should also consider which animal parts you buy. The most expensive parts are usually those that drive the quantity of animals slaughtered, whereas the rest is sold off at whatever price the markets offers.

Also, not carcasses from the same herd going to the slaughter house are the same quality. By paying for the highest quality, you may actually drive up numbers.

A carbon tax would help. We don't necessarily have to eliminate meat production, just make it expensive enough to reduce its use by a factor of 10 or so.

This idea of soy being the bad guy seems a bit naïve. These days forests are usually first cut down to make charcoal. Thats the initial reason that its economically feasible to cut down a forest, there is no local fuel source cheaper than charcoal. After that its typically a palm oil producer that takes over the now cleared land. In wealthier places like Brazil there is enough investment to buy cattle and plant a feed crop of soy instead.

Would you have a source for that?

Thanks. Based on this source, it looks like the main driver of deforestation may be charcoal in Africa and soy in Brazil. There was no need to dismiss soy as one of the contributing factors.

Is 'x' industry the key driver of 'y' environmental destruction? No, for all values of x and y.

The key drivers for each and every 'y' are economics, poverty and/or poor regulation, while 'x' is just the current manifestation. People plant soy because that's the best crop available for them. If the soy market collapses, they will resort to some other cash crop. If you drive the people out of the area but leave poor regulation in place, some mega-corp will discover there are profits to be made, and continue the process.

There’s a lot of absolutism in this thread, but there are so many incremental things we can change.

First, we should put a price on carbon given the clear negative externalities. Animal agriculture — when you actually factor in everything like transportation, chemical fertilizer production, and land-use change — is a big driver of climate change. [1] Put a price on carbon, and consumption will go down.

Organic, while not a panacea, at least reduces the petrochemical component — so it’s an easy first step you can take.

For the animals that are still grown, switch to sustainable farming practices like agroforestry, which consists of a mosaic of trees and grasslands. And wherever possible, we should reforest land. We should pay countries with forests not to cut them down.

Research is being done on breeding perennial versions of our popular annual staples. The perennials have much deeper roots, storing tons of carbon. And less tillage means less carbon being put into the atmosphere.

Aquaculture and fishing can be made more sustainable as well — though it’s an area I’m less familiar with.

Finally, support local farms. If we are going to eat more plants and vegetables, it would have a big impact to get them from places closer to home. Monocultures are the big culprit — if we support local farms growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s better for our health and the health of the planet as well. Consider a “victory garden” at home. It may only provide you some herbs and tomatoes, but you’ll feel good doing it and learn more about — and become more invested in — food grown with care.

I became mostly vegan for personal reasons about five years ago. It was a struggle for about two weeks. I’m not dogmatic about it, nor do I think people should be shamed into it. But I did become much healthier. I actually gained muscle and lost fat (with exercise). (Again, I’m not trying to brainwash anyone into doing it — and I’m a data point of one.) But if that’s not for you, maybe my list above contains some element that you’d be in support of.

Rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, or shaming people, we can make incremental steps and before you know it we’ll be in a much more sustainable position.

1: For years, agriculture has been misrepresented as a small slice of the emissions pie. But this is because it’s typically measured solely by things like tractor fuel and tillage. These estimates ignore petrochemical fertilizer production, trucking, etc. These things are typically listed as separate categories - but our food production system is deeply tied to all aspects of our energy economy.

Beef consumption is also a huge driver of water usage. Water used directly or indirectly to raise cattle accounts for 55% of the water used in the Colorado River basin[1]. Beef and dairy production consumes something like 25% of the water in California.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/02/agricult...

In some instances, soy as a protein source in animal nutrition can be replaced by insects, like meal worms, soldier flys and the like. Especially in aquaculture.

I don't think insect protein will ever be a huge factor for direct Human consumption, because even though it can theoretically be raised on less resources (or with less impact) than other animal protein, it takes a lot of man power to process insects into something edible.

If there weren't demand for soy, would they produce something else with similar methods? People have to earn living to survive.

The amount of meat we produce and the stupidly low prices we sell it for are required by nobody. It's a want and not a need.

People want 1$ burgers. They don't need them. They can eat thousands of alternative meals to nourish themselves. Meat should be a luxury only, everything else is unsustainable and sooner or later the problem will make itself known anyways. We can still choose how inconvenient it's going to be, however.

I eat quite a lot of meat myself, choosing to pay more for better quality product with animal well-being in mind. I am dumbfounded at the availability of cheap meat.

It's 1.000x worse than international air traffic in terms of climate and ecology but somehow it's "normal" that everyone can get pounds and kilograms of meat for less than 10$. It's wrong and unsustainable and the only question there is if we control the inevitable crash or not.

> More than three-quarters (77%) of global soy is fed to livestock for meat and dairy production. Most of the rest is used for biofuels, industry or vegetable oils. Just 6% of soy is used directly for human food products such as tofu, soy milk, edamame beans, and tempeh. The idea that foods often promoted as substitutes for meat and dairy – such as tofu and soy milk – are driving deforestation is a common misconception.

> [...]

> Whilst the expansion of pasture for beef production is the leading driver of deforestation in Brazil, soy still plays a significant role when we take its indirect impacts into account. To end deforestation, there are a couple of key actions we can take. For consumers, since most deforestation is driven by expanding pastures for beef, or soy to feed poultry and pigs, reducing meat consumption is an effective way to make a difference. For companies and regulators, zero-deforestation policies must be more widely implemented (i.e. not only focused on the Amazon) and must be more carefully designed to take spillover effects into account.

Tl;dr: soy is a driver of deforestation IF you ignore where it goes. The real driver of deforestation is meat production.

Meat is a driver of deforestation if you ignore where it goes. The real driver of deforestation is the human.

Human behavior. Specifically, meat consumption.

Or human behaviour, reproducing too much. Meat wouldn't be a problem with a reduced population.

I lived a vegetarian diet for over 30 years but eventually the effects of health problems caused by nutritional deficiencies were impossible to ignore. We evolved as omnivorous animals, to deny this history for philosophical reasons seems good and just for a while until the physical reality of our biology kicks in. If you can do a diet like this for 40 or more years without health problems you're better at it than I was, but I'm dubious that its very common.

What kind of health problems did you have? I'm at 30 years vegetarian and my blood work has even improved when I started eating mostly vegan. I won't say I'm super fit, but I feel that's mostly due to lack of exercise. No problems for sure.

I generally eat lots of vegetables and supplement B12 and D.

I felt super healthy for years then a variety of problems hit me at once. It started off with excessive bruising from minor bumps, headaches, then extreme tiredness. I would get small cuts and they wouldn't seem to heal, doctors baffled. A few years after that I was getting extreme pain in various joints, eventually leading to regular bursitis in the arms and legs. Yeah I know, a vegetarian diet is supposed to reduce inflammation but it didn't. I found it almost impossibly repulsive but I eventually worked up the courage to eat a pastrami sandwich and the effects were almost immediate. Various aches and pains were gone within 24 hours, I could sleep much more comfortably, a bounce returned to my step. I eat very small amounts of meat a month because I still find it a bit disgusting but I seem to be in better shape than I was 5 years ago.

Haha what. The magic pastrami saved your life with the magic ingredient of what? What did the blood test show?

"I have been vegetarian for 30 years and all it took was one pastrami sandwich to cure all my health problems"

Yeah sure.

This is a common anecdote. Long time vegan/vegetarian has onset of pain or tiredness and after one encounter with magic meat all problems go away immediately. No one ever knows what was missing in the diet, because it does not matter anymore. For you it is pastrami for others it is organic grass fed cattle, chicken, fish, or oysters.

The disease you were likely suffering from was mental. Being different wears on you and the micro aggressions of being a minority wears on you after a while. The food industry ads, cooking shows, bbqs, nostalgia, that random guy that says being vegetarian is dumb or deadly, etc. The mental pain builds up and causes the damn to break after a while.

> I would get small cuts and they wouldn't seem to heal, doctors baffled.

I had a similar experience in the brief time that I went vegetarian. Plus I was skinny at the time and lost weight.

This could be a B12 deficiency.

B12 deficiency stores can deplete over 2-4 years so it will be a while before you notice. You also need very small amounts (monkeys get their B12 intake by accidentally eating bugs on their bananas).

I tried going vegetarian for a period of my life and I started feeling extremely tired after a while. I stopped doing it mainly because getting protein is hard and I didn't notice any other positive changes.

I'm usually surprised when people say they struggled with protein intake. Protein is widely available and eating seeds, pulses, nuts, oats, grains and a load of veggies should get most people to that required ~50g of daily protein intake.

What was your specific deficiency and why didn't you fix it?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating meat, the problem is in over consumption of meat, unsustainable agriculture to feed animals and the bad treatment of animals.

Restricting yourself to expensive, high quality meat is a perfectly fair way of sustaining yourself and making sure the environment doesn't suffer too much.

If everyone only ate as much meat as they needed things wouldn't be so out of whack.

> There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating meat

The unnecessary slaughtering of animals is a problem all by itself in my opinion.

> Restricting yourself to expensive, high quality meat

What about people who can only afford dollar menu quality beef?

> If everyone only ate as much meat as they needed things wouldn't be so out of whack.

A corollary statement from other threads are if only we limit population size meat would be environmentally viable.

Large parts of India are vegetarian. I can understand that a balanced vegan diet is difficult, but vegetarian? You can still eat eggs and dairy, that makes it fairly easy to get a balanced diet.

I am not disagreeing to your point, but in most parts of India vegetarians do not eat eggs.

Interesting, thanks for pointing that out. Do you also know why?

Though, most of them do consume dairy.

I was vegetarian for around 10 years with the last 3 being vegan, I supplement B12 and my blood work is fine. B12 deficiency is apparently quite common in modern humans, vegetarian or not. I don’t doubt you, just wondering what health problems you had so I and others here can avoid the same.

Not to deride your experience, but a healthy diet is possible (and not necessarily difficult) with any of these options. Most of us, no matter the diet, could do better in finding the right balance. There are people living healthy and unhealthy diets with or without meat.

One thing I don't understand is the absolutism around diets. Either people eat meat on every meal or none at all. Neither is healthy. Why the general discourse is dominated by these ultimates?

I eat meat once or twice per week. Works really well.

Soy is a great crop with many use casers. The chart in the article which shows different use cases is really cool. We can't say that about many other crops!


Is breast milk unhealthy for babies? It contains both cholesterol and saturated fats.

Cholesterol and saturated fats are only a problem if your diet is unbalanced.

Anyways, you can eat chemicals to supplement your deficits by all means. But that does not make a 100% vegan diet healthy for every other human on the planet.

Would you prefer to get rid of billions of humans so that the remainder can continue to eat meat?

I know you are saying this because it sounds absurd, but in a way it seems to be kind of what we're doing right now, but slowly. The rich are eating the poor.

I don't think the rich necessarily intend to, but in consumerist societies the consequences of our actions are so far removed from the moment of decision they usually don't even register for a lot of people, and surely don't make an impact on our ethical radar.

As a moderately well off Dutch guy, I am one of those rich people, and I'm constantly finding out how I am consuming rather than using the earth. I'm losing trust in our society, it's like discovering we are governed by a bunch of children instead of adults. I guess I'm still naive at 40 years old.

Can you elaborate? Generally poverty is on the decline, except for unstable countries is this what you mean with the rich are eating the poor (by them beeing not poor anymore)?

Yes, but it would be more efficient to eat those humans for the planet.

Well, getting rid of them is one step too much, but yes, if you have fewer humans each human will be wealthier [0] and this does mean continuing to eat meat.

[0] Assuming automation takes care of labor shortages, the only meaningful restriction is the availability of resources and less humans mean more resources per human to be exploited.

> if you have fewer humans each human will be wealthier

You have no historical evidence that the wealthy will better distribute the wealth once the population shrinks.

Would you prefer to live on Earth of ~1 billion who can enjoy their lives or an Earth of ~1 trillion confined to bunks and soylent?

Eating meat allowed people to evolve and we're hardwired to strive to eat it.

"We" are already diminishing in numbers, the problem is to stop at a reasonable number and make sure "the others" follow suit.

Cue vegans saying: "Are we the baddies?"


Wait, doesn't testosterone cause male pattern baldness? How does phytoestrogen cause that? If anything, I'd think it would be the opposite.

Yes, it does. The men on both sides of my family have hereditary slightly higher than average testosterone levels, and hair loss starting around 18-20yo is seemingly unavoidable.

None of us are lantern-jawed propaganda poster supermen, though. So testosterone is not the end-all, be-all hormone :-)

Pretty easily debunked.

I have the impression something is making the numbers not comparable: we humans eat soy beans but the rest of the plant is fed to animals. So I don't see how we can conclude anything about surface (deforestation). Maybe soy demand is driven by beans, and we're left with the rest of the plant which we feed to animals. But if we don't feed animals with the rest of the plant, what are we going to make with it?

Humans only eat the beans, because those are a valuable protein source. Actually, it's one only very few practical, mass produceable vegan protein sources.

Cattle, can also digest the rest of the plant. Like they would digest grass. And if you have the stuff anyway, why not feed it to grow some cattle meat.

However, for high performance, that ain't enough, you still need more protein. Soy protein is an important and (so far) cheap protein source in many animal feeds. But it is getting more expensive and problematical...

As far as I know the animal feed is produced from the beans too.

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