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.
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”.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.