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Environmental Impact Of Meat Consumption And Production

1687 words - 7 pages

One of the biggest controversies with livestock production is that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that get released into the atmosphere. Its assumed that cars produce most if not all the greenhouse gas emissions however livestock has a big say in air pollution. According to Cassandra Brooks, writer for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, 18 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock production. This is nearly 20% and can be greatly reduced if people reduced their demand for meat. The Environmental Working Group used a tangible variable for Americans stating “if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road” (Goffman 9). Instead of taking the bus to work, switching your diet around could make just as much of an impact on the environment.
In fact, the amount of resources that go into production of animals for consumption is somewhat startling. When factoring in transportation, grains for feeding, etc. and directly comparing them to the output of protein for consumption, a vegetarian diet seems much more appealing. David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist specializing in Agriculture and Life Science, stated beef production “requires a [fossil-fuel] energy output to protein output ratio of 54:1” and that 100,000 liters of water goes into just one kilogram of beef. Also, cows are notorious for producing large amounts of methane, totaling 500 liters per cow per day (Goffman 3). Methane traps heat in the environment, heating the surface of the earth causing problematic situations to occur all over the earth, including the ice caps melting and eliminating species. And when cattle, which aren’t crucial for survival, are producing 20% of all methane in the U.S. (Scheer) and 37% worldwide (Brooks) it seems we are putting ourselves into a tough situation. If that isn’t enough, the Amazon rainforest is being affected by beef production; four-fifths of the deforestation is due to cattle ranching (Scheer). This is because there needs to be room for the livestock to roam and crops to feed the animals. There isn’t enough space for humans and our livestock since reported by Suzanne Rice, writer for the Journal of Thought, “30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is... involved in livestock production” (Rice 118). 30 percent doesn’t leave us with much and it is no wonder we are deforesting these rainforests. However, although cattle seems to be the most detrimental livestock factor to the environmental problem, they are not alone.
Chicken, lamb, turkey, milk, pork, eggs, fish, etc., all contribute to the environmental problems facing the planet. The fossil-fuel energy consumption to protein output for these livestock are as follows: chicken has a 4:1 ration, lamb 50:1, turkey 13:1, milk protein 14:1, pork 17:1, and eggs at a 26:1 ratio. This averages out to almost eight-times more “fossil-fuel energy than production...

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