The meat, dairy and egg industries create significant damage to the environment. In 2006, the UN issued a report called “the long shadow of livestock” which looks into the effects of the livestock industries on the environment. The report states that livestock industries are one of the more significant factors in environmental damage.

These industries are responsible for the emission of 18% of global greenhouse gasses, including 40% of methane emissions, and 65% of nitrous oxide, which are 23 times and 296 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat, respectively.
 
What can be done?
As long as we continue eating conventional meat, these disastrous effects are here to stay, and with global meat consumption expected to double by 2050, there is no doubt they will worsen.

One of the possible solutions is growing only the parts of the animals that we wish to eat, as is with cultured meat.

Chart


A comparison of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and the amounts of land, energy and water required to grow 1 ton of cultured meat as opposed to cow, pig, chicken and lamb meat using current methods. Each type is compared to the type with the greatest impact in that category (scaled to 100).

These environmental advantages are even larger considering much of the land saved by not growing livestock could be used for reforestation.
Cultured meat could help preserve wildlife as it significantly lowers the need for turning forest into grazing pastures. It also provides a method of supplying the meat of endangered species that are hunted as of today.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that cultured meat would be a boon for the environment. It may be years till we see cultured meat on the the supermarket shelves, but one thing is certain: cultured meat is one of the most environmentally significant technologies being developed today and it would benefit us all to see it sooner rather than later.

Further reading:

1. Lab-grown meat would cut greenhouse gas emissions and save energy, research suggests

2. Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Due to Meat Production

3. Could lab-grown meat soon be the solution to the world's food crisis?

4. Background Information, cultured meat (Chalmers University of Technology)

 

Sources:
1. livestock's long shadow
2. Hanna L. Tuomisto, and M. Joost Teixeira de Mattos. Environmental Impacts of Cultured Meat Production.  Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011
3. http://www.new-harvest.org/the-environment/
4. http://www.futurefood.org/globalbenefits/environment_en.php
5. http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow/the-greenhouse-hamburger/