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Cutting Down on Beef Consumption Brings Multiple Environmental Benefits


_76425828_466858783If you would really like to do something about lowering emissions and your carbon footprint, but you cannot yet bring yourself to switch to renewables, then go vegetarian. And if going ‘cold turkey’ is too difficult for you, you can at least cut down on beef. Scientists proved statistically that its production has the biggest and most harmful impact on the environment.

I know that it is very difficult to convince anyone to forget about meat, unless they have set their mind on it. It is now clear that most arguments, except “it is tasty”, are bogus, especially those related to nutrition values, yet many meat-lovers continue to search for excuses to not try to even cut down on intake.

In their attempt to demonstrate the huge impact that the meat industry has on emissions and global warming, a team of U.S. scientists from Bard College, New York, took on the task to quantify the damage caused by meat production. For a first time ever, as reported in the Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences, the team presented data and statistics on each of the most common sources of protein in the U.S. (various meats, dairy and eggs) using a uniform method for comparison.

The researchers gathered an extensive dataset over a ten year period, on resources required to breed livestock for food. They then compared  the amounts of hey, silage and soybeans per kilo of weight, needed to keep a farm animal alive. In the statistics, they also included water usage and greenhouse gas emissions, both from the production process and the animal’s digestion.

Surprising or not, breeding cattle for meat was found to cause as much as 10 times more damage to the environment, than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy. This conclusion was based on the fact that cattle have extremely low conversion efficiency from their food, use up six times more nitrogen than eggs or poultry, need almost 30 times more land for grazing, and release around five times more greenhouse gases. Breeding cattle for dairy was a lot more acceptable, most probably because the animals are kept alive for much longer. According to the authors, around 60% of environmental damage caused by livestock in the US is a result of beef production.

The study was welcome by both U.S. and European specialists in the field, who support the argument and point out that only eliminating beef from one’s diet would be enough to make a real change in amount of emissions. It is also believed that the findings are representative for the situation in Europe, although there might be some differences in numbers.

Image (c)  Getty

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