Emissions to soar as love of steak takes off in Asia

By Dessy Sagita, AFP

JAKARTA–Climate change is the last thing on Maya Puspita Sari’s mind as she tucks into a steak and splurges on ice cream, products that were once a luxury but are now a growing staple in the diets of millions of Indonesians. But the livestock sector is a major contributor to climate change — accounting for 14.5 percent of the total global amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — more than those produced from powering all the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and planes combined.

Emissions are predicted to jump dramatically as demand skyrockets — the FAO predicts consumption of meat and dairy is expected to have risen 76 percent and 65 percent respectively by 2050.

Nowhere is this insatiable appetite growing faster than in Asia, where a huge, new middle class is consuming animal products like never before as tastes change and incomes rise. Consumers in China and India are driving this trend but demand in emerging economies such as Indonesia — a country of 250 million with a rapidly growing middle class — is also tipped to explode. For consumers like Sari, a 31-year-old accountant living in the cosmopolitan capital Jakarta, livestock products that were once rarely consumed outside major religious holidays, if at all, are now in abundant supply. She grew up in rural Sumatra eating red meat once or twice a year, with little on offer besides rendang, a traditional spicy beef stew. “Meat is no longer a luxury now and there are so many choices, like steak,” she told AFP. “In Jakarta you can find all kinds of ice cream, yoghurt and other dairy products. It’s great.” Christabelle Adeline Palar, a 25-year-old editor at a travel magazine, barely remembers eating meat as a child but now with a disposable income and an array of options, she knows what she wants. “It’s always meat,” she said of her daily food choices, “except for days where I need to be more thrifty.