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Archive for February, 2009

 

10 shocking statistics on meat and global warming.

1. If every American (300 million) gave up meat for 1 day a week, this would have the same positive effect on reducing greenhouse gases as saving 90 million plane tickets from New York to Los Angeles! (source:  Meat the Truth documentary, see video clip) [1]

2. If every American gave up meat for 2 days of the week, this would have the same effect as replacing all household appliances like fridges, freezers, microwave ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and so on and so forth, by energy efficient ones. (source: Meat the Truth documentary)

3. If all Americans gave up meat for 3 days a week, they would save almost 300 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would have a greater impact on reducing global warming than if all cars in the US were replaced with Toyota Priuses. (source: Meat the Truth documentary)

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4. Livestock production produces more greenhouse gases (18%) than all forms of transportation (cars + airplanes) combined.  (source:  UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

5. If the average American were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent, that would be the equivalent of switching from driving a Camry to a Prius. (source:  Eshel, University of Chicago)

6. $20 trillion would be saved from the cost of fighting climate change if the global population shifted to a low-meat diet – defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week. (source:  Stehfest, Climatic Change)

7. Beef production generates more than 13 times the total greenhouse gases from producing chicken. (source:  Fiala, Ecological Economics, picture)

Chicken Close Up

8. Animals raised for food produce 1.4 billion metric tons of manure, which is 130 times more excrement than the entire human population put together, for a total of 87,000 pounds per second.

This contributes to livestock’s total gas emissions which include 37% of all methane (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times). (source:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

9. 70 – 80% of deforested land in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest is occupied by farmers who use the land for livestock feed and grazing.   The rainforests are a natural defense against global warming, by converting CO2 into oxygen.  Brazil is the world’s 4th largest climate polluter, as 75% of greenhouse gas emissions are from deforestation  (source:  Mato Grosso, Greenpeace Brazil, video).

10. The impact of livestock on global warming is rapidly increasing. Annual global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tons in 2000 to 465 million tons in 2050  (source:  UN Food and Agriculture Organization).

* The calculations used in the documentary “Meat the Truth” derive from and have been validated by many sources including the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN FAO and the World Watch Institute.  It was produced under the consultation of many scientific institutions, which can be viewed on its website:  http://www.meatthetruth.nl/en/about-the-film/meat-the-truth-sources/

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10.  Meat the Facts Blog

One of the only blogs dedicated entirely to the environmental, health and global warming impact of meat.

9.  Meat the Truth Documentary

A professional documentary from the Netherlands all about meat and global warming, which premiered in May 2008.  I haven’t seen it yet, but looks like people are reacting favorably! Check out some clips from the documentary on YouTube on the impact of lowering meat consumption to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 days of the week.

8.  Facebook:  Fight Global Warming! Eat Less Meat! (Or none at all!)

This is a facebook group that currently has 4,600+ members.  There are some interesting discussions/debates, and links/pictures/videos shared with other members.  An inspiration for me to setup this blog and a great way to network.

7.  Campaign for Eco-Veg*nism

Another great way to network.  For anyone interested in grassroots veggie/vegan campaigning from an environmental perspective.  Check out their Yahoo e-mail list, Facebook or Myspace page!  At the moment, they say their website is a bit basic (it’s true) but that it “will eventually become a mine of eco-veg*n campaigning info!”

6.  Let’s Act Now!

In January of this year, they launched a nationwide Public Service Announcement on the impact of meat on global warming.  If you’ve been wondering why nobody has setup a professional looking website on this subject, this is your answer.

5.  Food for Change Blog

Nice looking and up-to-date website/blog that “promotes food choices that are sustainable, ethical and environmentally responsible”.  What that headline doesn’t tell you, is that they also emphasize the environmental / global warming impact of animal agriculture.  Also check out their resources section, which includes videos, reports (they have 55), and a list of organizations.

4.  PETA 2: Meat’s Not Green

Their website is made for a young audience, and includes videos, vegetarian tips, a petition, a widget for calculating one’s footprint, and blog that details the PETA2’s efforts to get the word out that “Meat’s Not Green”.

3.  Supreme Master TV

There is no other place on the web that is as dedicated to providing relevant links and especially VIDEOS on this subject.  Even more impressively, they have a video section of  politicians and top climate scientists (including Dr. James Hansen and IPCC Chief Rajendra Pachouri) sharing their thoughts on meat and global warming.

2.  Compassion in World Farming (CIWF): Lecture on “Global Warning: the Impact of Meat Production & Consumption on Climate Change” from Dr. Pachouri (Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Joint winner of 2007 Nobel Peace Prize)

Includes video of highlights, mp3s of lecture, Powerpoint slideshow

There are  many articles on what Dr. Pachouri said, but not many people learned that he gave an entire lecture on this subject, which included a follow-up from a discussion panel.  Woot!  CIWF also has written reports on the impact of meat and factory farms on the environment and global warming.  He’s no Al Gore, but in the world of climate change, this guy is the man.

1.  Price of Meat Blog

I couldn’t decide which deserved the #1 spot, so I settled on my own blog … bwahahaha.  I know I’m only one person, and there are many organizations that have done a lot more work on this than I have.  But where else can you find a blogger on this subject with a snarky personality who writes top 10 lists on meat and global warming?

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meat-the-truth1

For your information and amusement, I provided a Guilt Trip Rating for each video (GTR, 10 is high, 1 is low).   In my opinion, videos with a low GTR are great for introducing this subject to someone.  Videos with a higher GTR should be viewed with caution.  Enjoy.


  1. ABC News:  2 Simple Steps for Climate Change
  2. Meat the Truth Trailer
  3. Compassion in World Farming:  Livestock Production & the Environment
  4. Holistic Secrets with Rachel Avalon:  On Less Meat and Dairy
  5. Glen Beck:  Al Gore Ignores Eating Meat
  6. Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong With What We Eat (20 min.)
  7. Meat the Facts on Global Warming
  8. Supreme Master TV:  United Nations: Less Meat, Less Heat
  9. Barack Obama responds to Question from Vegan on Meat
  10. CNN:  Going Vegan:  The Impact on your Health and the Environment

1.  ABC News:  2 Simple Steps for Climate Change (5/13/08)

For those in a rush.  Guilt Trip Rating: 2

ABC’s Dan Harris narrates this well-made video made for a mainstream audience that helps us to visualize how the beef production process releases greenhouse gases.  The second part (Step 2) of the video encourages viewers to also get an energy audit.  Point made:  there’s more than one way to stop global warming, eating less beef is a lot easier.  Bravo.

2.  Meat the Truth Trailer

For media types, documentary lovers.  Guilt Trip Rating:  5

This is the trailer to a DOCUMENTARY on meat and global warming made in the Netherlands! I’m surprised I didn’t hear about this earlier.  Takes an incrementalist approach towards meat-eating, mimicing Al Gore’s Powerpoint-style presentation in An Inconvenient Truth.   Shows how one meatless day of the week helps.

3.  Compassion in World Farming:  Livestock Production & the Environment

For those who prefer British accents?  Guilt Trip Rating:  5

4.  Holistic Secrets with Rachel Avalon:  On Less Meat and Dairy

For those who just pay more attention to a lady, or who need their hand to be held.  Guilt Trip Rating:  3

A holistic, innocent, earthy, video blogger who gently lays out the stats and gives some nice homemade graphics :).  Her summary:  “Surprising solution beyond CFL lightbulbs, planting trees, & hybrids”.

Check out Rachel’s website at www.rachelavalon.com.  She is trained in holistic nutrition, reflexology and massage therapy!


5. Glen Beck:  Al Gore Ignores Eating Meat

For those who wishes they could see something good in Glen Beck?  Guilt Trip Rating: 9

As Google reveals, this is one of the most viral videos on meat and global warming out there.  But be careful with this one.  For those who don’t know, Glen Beck is a prominent right-wing talk show host, who thinks the global warming crowd is alarmist and being misled.  It seems that his goal is to manipulate the subject of meat and global warming, as an “all or nothing” sort of issue – in order to further antagonize the skeptics, or to  even divide global warming activists.  This is my hunch at least.  Beck never mentions the fact that one could simply eat LESS meat, though the PETA organizer does mention it at the end.  Beck even prepared a video catching well-known celebrities and of course, Al Gore, eating meat.

Eat ANY meat? Guilt! Guilt! Shame! Shame!

However, it is nonetheless an informative video that brought attention to this issue, and includes some points I can agree with.  Gore should bring up the impact of livestock on global warming.  I just hope people aren’t introduced to this subject through Beck.

Round 2 – Beck and PETA spokesperson Matt Prescott met again earlier this month

6Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong With What We Eat (20 min.)

For science, whole-system types.  Guilt Trip Rating: 4

This guy is great.  Non-vegetarian and author who blogs at the NY Times about cooking, with occasional blog posts on the impact of meat on global warming.  The video explains how industrial agricultural is to blame for our diets and for harming the Earth.

Summary from TED itself:  “In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.”

7.  Meat the Facts on Global Warming

For those who can take the heat.  Guilt Trip Rating: 9

From MeatTheFACTS.org,  A serious guilt-trip.  Hits all the angles:  global warming, deforestation, poverty, water, world hunger and starving children.  No narration.  Just the facts & ominous techno music mixed with a heart monitor, suggesting that the end is near.  Which is probably true…


8.  Supreme Master TV:  United Nations: Less Meat, Less Heat

For everyone, literally.  There are subtitles for 14 other languages.  Guilt Trip Rating:  6

“Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace, has said that people should give up eating meat at least once a week in order to help prevent global warming.”

One of many videos from Supreme Master Ching Hai, on meat and global warming. You may not agree with all of her spiritual views, but you can agree that she is channeling her energy for the planet. “Supreme Master TV” is a multilingual video channel which regularly emphasizes why and how to go vegetarian and vegan.

9.  Barack Obama responds to Question from Vegan on Meat

For everyone, Obama fans.  Guilt Trip Rating: 2

It’s very interesting to watch Obama’s respond to this question on the environmental impact of our diet.  He explains that as a result of climate change and livestock production, the global food system is under immense stress – and says rising global meat consumption is a threat. He gives some tangible examples.  He also ties the question to health, noting that the US healthcare system could save a trillion dollars if obesity levels were lowered to 1980 levels.   YESiree.  Of course, he says all this in a much more articulate and non-threatening sort of way.  Yay, this is the president of the USA speaking!

The question – Nikki Benoit: Thank you, Senator, very much for your strong environmental position.

The United Nations actually has reiterated that factory farming is contributing more to global greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation. I think that as a global community we really need to be the leader and moving more towards non-factory farming animal agriculture. It’s very egregious. There’s 10 billion land animals that we are funneling our precious water and grain through when 70 per cent of all of our grain could help feed the world’s hungry. So, as the next leader of the most amazing nation in the world, how can we set the example on the more nutritional, plant-based diet that’s more eco-friendly and sustainable, that can maintain our water resources and all of our grain. Thank you very much.

10.  CNN:  Going Vegan:  The Impact on your Health and the Environment (6/11/08)

For everyone, particularly those who just need to hear it from CNN.  Guilt Trip Rating: 3

The reporter, Alina Cho, talks about the facts while showing off some vegan food in action.  She concludes by telling viewers  that she is not saying one has to cut meat entirely out of his/her diet to make a significant impact (despite the story on veganism).  Unfortunately, the video quality is not great.

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cows

This is a useful post for illustrating meat’s carbon footprint to different people.  Do you like exotic food?  Know a Prius or SUV owner?  Don’t plan on going veg anytime soon?  There’s something for everyone. Hopefully, at least one of these ten studies will help you or someone you know to consider eating less meat.

1.  Livestock’s Longshadow

This is probably the most cited and comprehensive study on the impact of meat on global warming and the environment.  Estimated that livestock produces 18% of all greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined.  Summary:  Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment

Steinfeld et all., United Nations, Food and Agricultural Organization, 2006.

For those who just want to hear it from a “legitimate source”.

2.  Diet, Energy and Global Warming (pdf)(view as html)

One of the first major studies on this subject, which concluded choosing a vegan diet reduced more greenhouse gases than switching from a SUV to a prius.  Summary:  Vegan Diets Healthier for Planet, People than Meat Diets

Gidon Eshel and Martin, University of Chicago,  December 2005.

For the veg-curious and hybrid or SUV owners.

3.   Kangaroos and Greenhouse Gases

Concluded switching from beef to kangaroo meat would significantly help fight global warming.

Articles about this subject are surprisingly popular.  Though I don’t think I would touch kangaroo meat, many people seem curious about this new alternative.  To me, this is fine.  It brings a lot of awareness to the impact of livestock on global warming, which is the most important thing.  Apparently, about 58% of Australians eat kangaroo meat.  Summary:  Kangaroo Farming would Cut Greenhouse Gases

To start conversations with exotic food lovers, cute Australians, global warming skeptics, and maybe animal rights activists.

George Wilson, University of New South Wales (May 2008)

4.  Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States

Concluded that reducing meat consumption will more effectively lower one’s carbon footprint than “buying local”.  Summary:  It’s the Meat Not the Miles

Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon Universit(April 2008).

For locavores and the “just buy local or organic” discussions.

5.  Climate Friendly Dining Meats

A look at the individual carbon footprints of beef, pork, chicken and fish.  Beef accounts for only 30% of all meat consumption, but contributes 78% of meat’s greenhouse gas emissions.  AFP summary:  Hamburgers are the Hummers of Food in Global Warming.

American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, Chicago (Feb. 15).

For the everyday meat eater.

6.  The Cheeseburger Footprint

Concludes: “The greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs.  There are now approximately 16 million SUVs currently on the road in the US. ”  Total Cheeseburgers = Total SUVs?

Jamais Cascio, ref: Energy Use in the Food Sector (PDF), a 2000 report from Stockholm University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, (Dec. 2006).

To help cheeseburger-eating, frequent SUV drivers feel even more guilty.

7.  Climate Benefits of Changing Diet

Concluded that if the world shifted to a low-meat diet, the world could cut $20 trillion off the cost of fighting global warming (that’s $20,000,000,000,000).  Summary:  Eating less meat could cut climate costs

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Earth System Science and Climate Change Group, Wageningen University Research Centre, February 2009.

For any discussion about the dismal state of the world economy or stimulus packages.

8.  Global Environmental Costs of Beef Production

A well-cited article by scholars, ahead of its time.  Showed “cows emit between 2.5 and 4.7 ounces of methane for each pound of beef they produce.  Because methane has roughly 23 times the global-warming potential of CO2, those emissions are the equivalent of releasing between 3.6 and 6.8 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere for each pound of beef produced.”  (Nathan Fiala – interesting researcher on this subject, Scientific American)

For those who give you links to carbon footprint calculators.

Susan Subak, University College London (July 1999).

9.  Amazon Cattle Footprint (pdf)

This is an impressive study with maps and graphs on how cattle ranching is responsible for 80% of the continuous deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.  According to Dr. Norman Myers, 5% of the world’s deforestation is currently due to cattle ranching.  Overall deforestation is estimated to be responsible for 20% of all greenhouse gases, more than transportation.  Summary:  How Cattle Ranches are Chewing Up the Amazon Rainforest.

For the everyday treehugger (a good thing) who isn’t cutting back on meat.

Greenpeace (January 2009)

10. Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow–calf system by the life cycle assessment method

Concluded that producing 1kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home.  Summary:  Meat is Murder on the Environment

For the next time your wife/husband/roommate/etc. complains about you leaving the lights on or wasting gas.

Akifumi Ogino, National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Tsukuba, and Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan (July 2007)

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Eating Less Meat to Save the Planet:  Why is Meat-Eating Left Off the Table in Environmental Discussions? (mp3) – Your Call Radio KALW 91.7  San Francisco

I recommend listening to this really interesting discussion between panelists and callers.  I promise this isn’t just a presentation of all the facts about how the production of meat releases greenhouse gases.  The guests actually analyze why meat is a difficult topic to address.  It’s also about how to persuade people to make the choice to eat less meat, through empathy and understanding.

What I learned: It can be difficult to understand why meat is responsible for so much greenhouse gases. It’s easy to understand the carbon footprint of a car or airplane, because you can visualize it.  It’s not the same for meat.  You don’t see the resources put into creating cattle feed, the land cleared for rainforests, the energy it takes to slaughter, the methane emitted from the cows and manure, etc.

Also, I got the impression that some people feel threatened by those who raise the subject of the environmental impact of meat because it suggests everyone should be a vegetarian or vegan.  Fair enough.  Perhaps this is a subject that must be handled more carefully.  In my opinion, talking to someone about the environmental significance of eating less meat should be like talking to someone about why a SUV is not climate friendly.  I would rather encourage many people to eat less meat, rather than possibly alienate some people in order to push vegetarianism.  At the same time, I think it’d be wise to provide resources on how to be a vegetarian or vegan, should one choose.

Interesting point from Linda:  Lets focus not just on why we shouldn’t eat meat, but why we DO eat meat.

Guests

  • Melanie Joy, UMASS, Author of Strategic Action for Animals
  • Linda Riebel, Save Nature, Author of Eating to Save the Earth
  • Chris Jones, Staff Researcher at Berkeley Institute for the Environment, Leader Developer for Cool Climate Calculator

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(2/6/09 – NY Times) Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), stated that it might tax cows in an effort to curb methane and other greenhouse gasesIt has since backed down from any greenhouse gas regulation on the livestock industry.

Under the proposal, if a state charged the “presumptive minimum rate” from the EPA, the cow tax would be $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per head for beef cattle and a little more than $20 per pig,” said American Farm Bureau Federation Director of Regulatory Relations Rick Krause.

This could have limited the number of cows which farms have, raised the price on meat and dairy products, or put weaker farms out of business.

Perhaps this wasn’t the perfect proposal, but I would’ve liked to see something, anything done to limit the impact of greenhouse gases from livestock.  While it doesn’t make me glad to see farms struggling or put out of business, it’s like seeing a hummer dealership fail.   Businesses or farms will need to adapt.

If the government wants people to believe that global warming is as serious of an issue as scientists are telling us, no sector of the economy should be immune to reform and regulation.

Here are some interesting comments from the Times blog post:

Sigh…the ranchers don’t have to do anything?

At least we should make them fund the research into better feed to reduce the methane. I have still yet to hear if grass fed beef emits less methane.

- Mark,  Dallas

It is such a joke. The cattle industry is so subsidized, and they complain about a little tax. A low quality slab of steak would cost about $100 if the government didn’t subsidize the industry. But of course, healthier foods like vegetables recieve very little subsidy (yea, corn does, and too much, but most other vegetables do not).

— 0megapart!cle

Most serious people that are informed about climate change would acknowledge that cows in our agriculture chain do account for a disproportionate amount of emissions. But before we go for a tax, maybe we should just rein in the vast subsidies that the industry now enjoys in the form of grain subsidies, land usage subsidies, etc. This would also of course greatly benefit public health and the accompanying public health expenditures if people ate more spinach and less subsidized beef.

— akb
Well, something must be done. Perhaps a meat tax rather than a cow tax would be better. NYTimes yesterday noted that carbon emissions were down due to decreased consumer spending, in turn due to economic downturn.
— Rr Salamander

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(1/23/09 – UK Guardian) Germany’s environment agency has recommended to German citizens that they should lower meat consumption, if they want to lower their carbon footprint and stop global warming.

Speaking at Berlin’s Grüne Woche (Green Week), Andreas Troge, president of the UBA (Germany’s environment agency) said:

“We must rethink our high meat consumption.  I recommend people return to the Sunday roast and to an orientation of their eating habits around those of Mediterranean countries.”

Troge explained that agriculture was responsible for 15% of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and that meat production was the most energy-intensive form of farming.  I have to admit it is surprising to hear, considering that Germany is a world leader in terms of meat consumption (39% of Germany’s total calorie intake derives from meat and meat products, compared with 25% in Italy).  It’ll be interesting to see how citizens react.

Edmund Geisen, agricultural adviser to the liberal Free Democrats, was not pleased with Troge’s message.

“Andreas Troge should stop trying to damage the nation’s appetite by discrediting agricultural production,” he said, calling his attack on meat “populist and one-dimensional”. “Our enlightened consumers should decide for themselves what they want to eat.”

Enlightened consumers deciding for themselves? It is an argument we hear often.  But how many consumers are aware that the price of meat does not reflect it’s environmental costs?  I bet not many.  Troge’s message will help consumers make more educated and enlightened decisions about their carbon footprint, rather than dwell in ignorance.

Go Troge!

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