Beef: Meat Industry's Worst Eco-Offender
Raising cattle takes up 160 times as much land as plants, study finds
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2014 9:37 AM CDT
FILE - In this June 11, 2014 file photo, longhorn cattle wonder through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located in the Badlands of North Dakota.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

(Newser) – Think drive-thru cheeseburgers are cheap? Think again. What may be light on the wallet is heavy on the planet, according to a new study on the environmental costs per calorie of beef, pork, poultry, dairy, and eggs—which, combined, make up 96% of the calories Americans get via animal sources. But, as LiveScience reports, the worst offender is beef: Not only does it require about 10 times the resources as pork and poultry (including 28 times the land), but when compared to calories gotten from plants, beef uses 160 times more land, 19 times more fertilizer, 11 times more greenhouse-gas emissions, and 8 times more irrigation water.

While this isn't the first study to pinpoint the resources used to raise cattle, the authors say it is one of the largest ever conducted to investigate the full extent of environmental costs across different types of livestock in the US, thereby allowing for direct comparisons. Not ready to drop meat from your diet altogether? "Eliminating beef, and replacing it with relatively efficient animal-based alternatives such as eggs, can achieve an environmental improvement comparable to switching to plant food source," one researcher tells the BBC. Other researchers say the conclusions can likely be extended to Europe. (Check out what is predicted to happen if the whole world suddenly goes vegetarian.)

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Showing 3 of 41 comments
WE
Jul 31, 2014 4:15 PM CDT
Plant eating animals have been roaming the earth and been eaten by carnivores for millions of years...I'm not dropping steak anytime soon seeing as we have polluted our oceans to the point where seafood is getting questionable and have you any idea how much antibiotics it takes just to keep chickens alive in the conditions they are kept in? No thank you! The answer is free-range venison. Well not the answer for the anti-gun nuts but the answer for me.
HANKHILL
Jul 23, 2014 4:03 PM CDT
NO NO NOOOOOOOO COW EAT GRASS COW MAKE MANURE MANURE FERTILIZE EARTH GRASS GROW! ME EAT COW MEAT EVERY DAY YUMMMMMM!
OrneryPup
Jul 22, 2014 10:39 PM CDT
Sam Elliott said it best when he said ; "Beef...........it's what's for dinner."