The environmental impact of eating beef

The fat content of meat can vary widely depending on the species and breed of animal, the way in which the animal was raised, including what it was fed, the anatomical part of the body, and the methods of butchering and cooking.

The environmental impact of eating beef

Share via Email Millions of hectares of trees have been felled for cattle ranching in the Amazon. Behind most of the joints of beef or chicken on our plates is a phenomenally wasteful, land- and energy-hungry system of farming that devastates forests, pollutes oceans, rivers, seas and air, depends on oil and coal, and is significantly responsible for climate change.

The way we breed animals is now recognised by the UN, scientists, economists and politicians as giving rise to many interlinked human and ecological problems, but with 1 billion people already not having enough to eat and 3 billion more mouths to feed within 50 years, the urgency to rethink our relationship with animals is extreme.

We The environmental impact of eating beef breed four species — chickens, cows, sheep and pigs — all of which need vast amounts of food and water, emit methane and other greenhouse gases and produce mountains of physical waste. But how much stress does our meat-eating put on ecological systems?

The answer is a lot but the figures are imprecise and disputed. The authors of the report, called Livestock's Long Shadow, did not just count the methane from the belching, farting cattle, but the gases released from the manures that they produce, the oil burned taking their carcasses to markets often thousands of miles away, the electricity needed to keep the meat cool, the gas used to cook it, the energy needed to plough and harvest the fields that grow the crops that the animals eat, even pumping the water that the cattle need.

Should the studies have been based on giant US factory farms, or on more sustainable breeding in Europe? Should you include all the knock-on emissions from clearing forests?

What about the fertiliser used to grow the crops to feed to the animals, or the emissions from the steel needed to build the boats that transport the cattle; or the "default" emissions — the greenhouse gases that would be released by substitute activities to grow food if we were to give up meat?

And is it fair to count animals used for multiple purposes, as they mostly are in developing countries, from providing draught power to shoe leather or transport, and which only become meat once they reach the end of their economic lives?

But however it's counted, livestock farming ranks as one of the three greatest sources of climate changing emissions and one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation. How much food we grow is not just limited by the amount of available land but meat-eaters need far more space than vegetarians.

A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less, while the average American, who consumes around pounds of meat a yearneeds 20 times that.

One billion people go hungry every day, but livestock now consumes the majority of the world's crops. A Cornell University study in found that around 13m hectares of land in the US were used to grow vegetables, rice, fruit, potatoes and beans, but m were used for livestock.

The problem is that farm animals are inefficient converters of food to flesh. Broiler chickens are the best, needing around 3. Other academics have calculated that if the grain fed to animals in western countries were consumed directly by people instead of animals, we could feed at least twice as many people — and possibly far more — as we do now.

To make matters worse, our hunger to eat animals has led to overstocking of fragile lands and massive soil erosion and desertification. Overgrazing, from the downlands of southern England to the uplands of Ethiopia and mountains of Nepal, causes great loss of fertility, as well as flooding.

But the figures must be treated with caution. Animal manures can revitalise the soil and millions of animals live on marginal land that is quite unsuitable for crops. But before we leap to conclusions and lump all livestock rearing together, consider this: But in poorer regions, cattle — especially in dry areas — are central to human life and culture and often the only source of food and income for many millions of pastoralists.

The ceaseless movement of these nomadic herders over vast areas is the backbone of many African economies and, a major new study from the International Institute for Environment and Development suggests, a far more ecologically efficient method of farming than the way cattle are reared in Australia or the US.

Vegetarian author John Robbins calculates it takes 60, and pounds of water to produce one pound of potatoes, wheat, maize and rice respectively. But a pound of beef needs around 9, litres — or more than 20,lbs of water.

Equally, it takes nearly 1, litres of water to produce one litre of milk. A broiler chicken, by contrast, is far more efficient, producing the same amount of meat as a cow on just 1, litres.While it has long been known that beef has a greater environmental impact than other meats, the authors of this paper say theirs is is the first to quantify the scale in a comparative way.

Dec 16,  · The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production. Livestock production may have a bigger impact on the planet than anything else. INFOGRAPHIC: The True Environmental Cost of Eating Meat by huge herds of cattle, farming animals has a massive negative impact on the environment as a The True Environmental Cost of Eating.

I f we really want to reduce the human impact on the environment, the simplest and cheapest thing anyone can do is to eat less meat. Behind most of the joints of beef or chicken on our plates is a. At Wrangler Feedyard, on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle, night was coming to an end, and 20, tons of meat were beginning to stir.

The humans who run this city of beef had been up for hours.

The environmental impact of eating beef

Sep 11,  · The environmental impact is the driving reason why members of a United Nations panel last month urged its environmental assembly to consider recommending a tax on meat producers and sellers.

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