Beef and the environment

We now have an increased understanding about how our daily lives impacts on the environment and new research reveals that eating less red meat would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars.

The considerable impact on the environment of meat production has been known but the research shows a new scale and scope of damage, particularly for beef. Red meat requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in 5 times more climate-warming emissions.

When compared to other staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases.

Agriculture is a significant driver of global warming and causes 15% of all emissions, half of which are from livestock and the huge amounts of grain and water needed to raise cattle is a concern to experts worried about feeding an extra 2 billion people by 2050.

“The big story is just how dramatically impactful beef is compared to all the others,” said Prof Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York state and who led the, 2014, research on beef’s impact.

The research analysed how much land, water and nitrogen fertiliser was needed to raise beef and compared this with poultry, pork, eggs and dairy produce. Beef had a far greater impact than all the others because cattle make far less efficient use of their feed.

Only a minute fraction of the food consumed by cattle goes into the bloodstream, so the bulk of the energy is lost. Feeding cattle on grain rather than grass exacerbates this inefficiency, and the study noted that even grass-fed cattle still have greater environmental footprints than other animal produce.

Separately, a second study of tens of thousands of British people’s daily eating habits shows that meat eaters diets cause double the climate emissions of vegetarian diets. (P Scarborough et al, 2014.)

The study was conducted by University of Oxford scientists and found that meat-rich diets resulted in 7.2kg of carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, both vegetarian and fish-eating diets caused about 3.8kg of CO2 per day, while vegan diets produced only 2.9kg. The research analysed the food eaten by 30,000 meat eaters, 16,000 vegetarians, 8,000 fish eaters and 2,000 vegans.

The message is clear and succinctly put by Craig Bennett from Friends of the Earth. “The evidence is now very clear that eating less meat could be one of the quickest ways to reduce climate pollution. Reducing meat consumption will also be good for people’s health.”


Beef is both bad for our health and bad for the environment and we need to do more to consciously make the correlations between what we put in our mouths and the environment.

It is important we make the connections between what we put on our plates and the origins of the meat we eat. We need to think about saving our world. Future generations’ lives are depending on it. We must act now.

Source: The

15 Oct, 2018

4 thoughts on “Beef and the environment

  1. I completely agree with this. It has been well known for a while now that beef production at current levels is harming planet earth and in inhumane.

    Unfortunately, in some western countries the insatiable demand for cheap beef and beef products, as a significant part of many peoples’ diets, fuels the demand for high levels of production.

    It is clear that we are contributing to global warming is many ways, but in this case we are harming the planet and ourselves with excessive meat proteins consumption.

    I gave up eating red meat several years ago as my daughter did, and it was easiest to make meals that we could all eat. We have replaced it more vegetables and soy products and haven’t really missed it. I think people will be surprised how good meat alternatives are.

    These studies show, once again that time seems to be running out and perhaps governments should think about acting on this as they are trying to with Co2 emissions through vehicles and industry.

    We clearly are incapable of making the right decisions without a nudge.

    1. I think we are capable. Individually, there is a lot we can do, but we’ve become more self-absorbed, we know what we know, we like what we like and aren’t willing to give up what we like and that includes beef.

      I think it important we start to put what’s happening globally first. Think about the next generation and what their needs will be and make this happen. It’s not enough to talk about it and not act.

      Scientists who are best placed to advise are giving us this advice. We need to act on it for ourselves and through Government.

  2. My opinion on this matter, is that it would need to be a worldwide effort, seeing as there are far too many other countries that are doing most of the damage.

    We have so many rules and regulations here in the US that does seem to be helping, but then there are others that don’t seem to really care.

    I’m also torn on this subject seeing as I love my steaks and burgers, but health wise it’s probably better that I don’t eat as much beef.

    It seems like as I have gotten older my metabolism has slowed down tremendously so there are many things that don’t process quite as well as they used to.

    It would be good if everyone worked together on issues like this, but that may never happen until it’s far too late, unfortunately.

    1. Thanks Randy. Yes you’re absolutely right. The world must work together for the greater good.

      I do think we need to do something, because it’s not us who will struggle, it will be future generations who will struggle and that’s fair.

      The problems with the environment are real, all governments need to lead by example and for us to individually follow suit.

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