STATE OF MATO GROSSO DO SUL, BRAZIL, 2013

The Seara Foods poultry farm near Sidrolandia

Steinmetz

© George Steinmetz / Contrasto

 

“We are what we eat”, said philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach in the 19th century. “We are what we breathe”, science shows us today. We are probably both, since the quality of the air we inhale also depends on what we eat or, rather, how we produce it.
According to the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), if in addition to primary particulate matter (emitted directly by polluting sources), we also consider secondary particulate matter (formed in the atmosphere through chemical and physical processes involving the particles already present), the share of PM 2.5 particulate produced by intensive livestock farming rises from 1.7% to 15.1%, making it the second most important source of pollution after heating systems. However, it has to be recognised that intensive farming is not necessarily a synonym for a worsening climate. In the case of cattle, both extensive and intensive systems have pros and cons that make it impossible to argue in favour of one or the other, suggesting instead the need to opt for intermediate solutions, given that free-range farming is not always the best compromise in terms of ecosystem sustainability and animal welfare, especially when the presence of livestock risks upsetting fragile natural balances.
Whatever the solution, polluting emissions must in any case be reduced in this sector too, in order to achieve the sustainable development objectives and ultimately avoid jeopardising the lives of those who will come after us. Technological progress may well make a valuable contribution, but there is no doubt that a crucial role will have to be played by citizen-consumers: only by choosing what we eat can we help decide the future.

Paolo Pinto