Meat is murder on the environment
* 18 July 2007
* NewScientist.com news service
* Daniele Fanelli
A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions
and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the
lights on back home.
This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the
National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba,
Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef
production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication,
and energy consumption. The team looked at calf production, focusing
on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting
feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier
studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were
able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.
Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the
emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to
36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising
compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of
phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy (Animal Science
Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x). In other words, a
kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of
CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and
burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of
meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm
infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental
load is higher than the study suggests.
Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane
released from the animals' digestive systems, while the acid and
fertilising substances come primarily from their waste. Over
two-thirds of the energy goes towards producing and transporting the
Possible interventions, the authors suggest, include better waste
management and shortening the interval between calving by one month.
This latter measure could reduce the total environmental load by
nearly 6 per cent. A Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic
beef, raised on grass rather than concentrated feed, emits 40 per
cent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 per cent less energy.
"Methane emissions from beef cattle are declining, thanks to
innovations in feeding practices," says Karen Batra of the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association in Centennial, Colorado. "Everybody is
trying to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints,"
says Su Taylor of the Vegetarian Society in the UK: "But one of the
easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat.
Two huge papers -- the New York Times and Chicago Tribune -- gave veggie diets ringing endorsements on Sunday, July 1. Other, Monday July 2 papers have calls for animal welfare standards, which I will look at in a separate alert.
The Sunday, July 1 New York Times carried an article, by Alex Williams, on the cover of the Sunday Styles Section (section 9) headed "Buying Into the Green Movement." The point of the article is to "question the notion that we can avert global warming by buying so-called earth-friendly products, from clothing and cars to homes and vacations, when the cumulative effect of our consumption remains enormous and hazardous." It quotes an author who says that "Green consumerism is an oxymoronic phrase" and discusses how the news media have been responsible for "turning environmentalism into fashion and distracting from serious issues." That article is on line at
Of most interest to those of us particularly concerned with animal issues, is a small related section, on page 9, headed, "Tread Lightly, Fly Directly." It recommends ways to reduce your carbon footprint, taking "a few suggestions from among 77 offered by 'The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook' by David de Rothschild, the official companion book to the Live Earth concerts."
The number one suggestion offered in the New York Times summary is:
"Whenever possible, replace meat with soy or other vegetable protein in your diet. It takes eight times as much energy to produce a pound of meat as it does a pound of tofu."
(Let's hope Al Gore read the New York Times this Sunday.)
You can read the other seven suggestions at
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/01/fashion/01gside.html . And most importantly you can keep the discussion of the number one suggestion going on the Times editorial page with a letter to the editor. The New York Times takes letters at letters@nytimes. com
You might want to make some of the points made in Sunday's Chicago Tribune article, by Julie Deardorff, headed "Balanced veggie diets give kids a healthy choice." (Pg Q6) Deardorff jumps off from the latest vegan family diet scandal, in which the father of 10-year-old quintuplets "is seeking primary residential custody, charging that Nelson Folkersen has 'serious psychological control issues' and won't let her children eat animal products.'"
"The real issue isn't what they eat, as long as they're not malnourished. The courts will decide the case this month based on which parent can provide a stable and healthy environment.
"But as the divorce petition suggests, the notion that a vegan diet is dangerous for children still exists, even though it has been shown that children can thrive without meat or dairy products. In fact, proper vegetarian diets have substantial health benefits and are appropriate for people at all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, childhood and adolescence, according to the American Dietetic Association.
"Vegetarian diets are lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein and have higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium folate, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. They can reduce the risk of diabetes, some cancers and cardiovascular disease.
"Vegetarians, meanwhile, have been shown to have lower body mass indexes than non-vegetarians, as well as lower blood pressure, hypertension and blood cholesterol levels."
She offers some tips. You'll find the article on line at
http://tinyurl.com/ysputp and can send an appreciative letter to the editor at the Chicago Tribune at
Yours and the animals',
UK Telegraph - "Eating beef ' is less green than driving"
July 19, 2007
Producing 2.2lb of beef generates as much greenhouse gas as driving a car non-stop for three hours, it was claimed yesterday.
Japanese scientists used a range of data to calculate the environmental impact of a single purchase of beef.
Taking into account all the processes involved, they said, four average sized steaks generated greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 80.25lb of carbon dioxide.
This also consumed 169 megajoules of energy.
That means that 2.2lb of beef is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions which have the same effect as the carbon dioxide released by an ordinary car travelling at 50 miles per hour for 155 miles, a journey lasting three hours. The amount of energy consumed would light a 100-watt bulb for 20 days.
Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane released from the animals' digestive systems, New Scientist magazine reported.
But more than two thirds of the energy used goes towards producing and transporting cattle feed, said the study, which was led by Akifumi Ogino from the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan.
Su Taylor, the press officer for the Vegetarian Society, told New Scientist: "Everybody is trying to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints, but one of the easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat."