If you’re reading this, odds are you’re already pretty hip to the arguments put forth by vegans and vegetarians about not eating meat for any/all of the various reasons (that doing so is unethical, causes pain, etc. etc.) HOWEVER: even if you don’t buy into the argument that animals shouldn’t be raised and killed for food, you still aren’t off the hook for eating beef.
We often think of livestock in relation to our consumption, but we consistently forget about their consumption. And, more specifically, what they do with what they’ve consumed.
It takes a lot of power to form all of that meat. Have to grow the food for the cows, transport it, power the machines that keep the slaughterhouses running, make the plastic to wrap the meat in, and ship it off to supermarkets across the country. All in all, a thorough life-cycle analysis by Johnson et al. (2003) has reported that cattle farming in the US creates about 22 kilograms of carbon-dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of beef produced.
Now, take that and multiply it by the 25 kilograms of beef eaten by the average American each year, and each American is roughly responsible for 550 kilograms of GHG emissions per year, just on beef alone!
Here’s where it gets interesting: compare that to the emissions of the standard American car, estimated by the EPA to be 4.7 metric tons per year (4700 kg). That means that 9 average Americans contribute more to climate change just by eating beef than a single car does.
Something to think about next time you’re hunkering down for a nice steak.