Photographed by Ben Ritter.
It might seem like more people are shunning meat these days, but it turns out humans are consuming more of it than ever. In fact, we're eating so much that we've climbed the food chain and are now situated closer to predators like polar bears. Yep: Our affinity for cheeseburgers and steak frites is doing more than just boosting our protein intake.
The findings come from a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and discussed by Scientific American this week. After examining the eating patterns in 176 countries over a 50-year period, scientists determined that the human trophic level — which determines where we land on the food chain — has increased by 3%. But, while that might seem to imply that we're all getting big and strong and building tons of muscle, it's actually bad news for the environment. The manufacturing of some meat products (especially that from industrial farms) requires more resources and has a greater impact on the earth than the production of vegetables. Our love for beef, poultry, and pork comes with its own super-sized footprint.
And, while it's easy to attribute this change to the fact that practically everyone you know is eating paleo or keto these days, the increase is actually coming from rapidly growing countries like China and India, where populations that previously relied heavily on rice- and vegetable-based diets are now incorporating more meat into their daily intake. The good news is that we're still considered omnivores, more so than carnivores, so we're not quite up there with lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my) just yet. (Time)