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Don't have a cow, man: The price of meat

Meat is an integral part of many people's diet, but our love for burgers, steaks and chops has an environmental impact.

As our hunger for beef, pork and chicken increases, the planet's resources are drained. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, it takes between 13,000 and 15,000 liters of water to produce just one kilo of grain fed beef.

Globally, the livestock sector contributes 18 percent of "global greenhouse gas emissions" according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.


In Scotland, scientists are looking to produce meat more sustainably and efficiently.

"There's no point in having an animal produced and then it dies from disease, there's no point in having matings which are not productive," Bruce Whitelaw, professor of animal biotechnology at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"All of those traits are governed by genetics and environmental and feed input," Whitelaw added. "And we are looking at each aspect of those to try and improve."

When animals many of us depend on for food are affected by illness and disease, the consequences can be devastating.

Some strains of Avian influenza, for example, can affect humans, causing symptoms such as fever, bleeding from the nose and gums, and vomiting and diarrhea.

Now, scientists are looking to find ways to mitigate risks associated with such diseases.

"The advance that we've made so far is to genetically modify chickens so that when they're infected with bird flu they don't pass it on to other birds," Helen Sang, personal chair in vertebrate molecular development at the Roslin Institute, said.

"This is very early stage but we are convinced that this is an approach that, if we develop it further or others develop it further, would give us genetic resistance to avian influenza," Sang added.