I found this article today in the New York Times. Meat production and consumption in the United States is HUGE and it is now becoming a big problem. The article drew a few parallels between meat and oil: both are subsidized by the government (which keeps the price of meat relatively constant and low), demand for meat (like oil) increases with increasing wealth in a country, and meat is also a product that we are encouraged to consume less of as the toll exacted by industrial production increases and becomes increasingly valuable. And meat consumption worldwide is increasing rapidly.
Huge concentrated animal farms (CAFO's) have proliferated in recent years. Aside from producing lots of animals these operations also produce a lot of waste (manure) and greenhouse gases (Methane!!) which contaminates water systems, the air, and can even leach into aquifers. Aside from the waste these operations consume enormous amounts of energy and resources both directly and indirectly. One astonishing fact in this article was if everyone in the US were to reduce their meat consumption (currently at 8 oz. a day) by 20% it would be equal to if every driver in the US switched from a Camry to a Prius.
What's the solution? Eat less meat! The author states that a more environmentally friendly (and natural) way to raise our meat is by having them out grazing on a farm instead of in one of the mega meat factories that are popping up all over the world. Of course, grazing could never produce as much meat as we currently consume, but maybe that's a good thing. Currently we are consuming far more meat protein than dietary experts recommend.
In short, I recommend you all take the time to read through this article, I only highlighted a few of the main impacts of our current meat consumption, but there are far more concerning effects of the proliferation of CAFOs.