Saturday, February 9, 2008

Beef about Climate Change

Here is something we can all do; eat less meat. Here is why.

Anthropogenic global warming skeptics are fond of pointing out that a lot of greenhouse gas emissions come from animals (in the form of methane) and suggest that this “natural” effect is not anthropogenic. But a lot of the animals involved are livestock for human consumption. An interesting article in the New York Times on January 27th points out that Americans alone eat nearly 10 billion animals a year. Worldwide we ate about 284 million tons in 2007, up about 300% from 1961, and this is expected to increase double by 2050.

My vegan sister has often told me how inefficient it is to eat meat, but I had not realized the extent of the problem. The NYT article has some interesting statistics:
· 6 ounces of beef produces 16 times the greenhouse gases as a vegetarian meal with the same number of calories.
· If each of us in the US were to cut our meat consumption by just 20% it would be equivalent to everyone switching from a Camry to a Prius.
· Producing 2.2 pounds of beef uses as much energy as burning a 100 watt bulb for nearly 20 days. (Not sure why they chose 2.2 pounds; maybe converted from a kilo. We eat about 4 pounds of meat, poultry, and fish each week.)

Then there is the problem of deforestation in places like Brazil to make room for cattle. 30% of the earth’s ice-free land is involved in livestock production.

For the full NYT article see

Eating less meat need not be a hardship. Indeed it will make us healthier. I like my meat but it does not need to be the biggest thing on my plate. I’d rather have it in meals like stew or curry or in a meat sauce with pasta, where a pound of meat probably is good for about 6 meals. On the rare occasion that I have a steak I have the smallest filet (without bacon wrap) which is usually 6 ounces and more than enough. I reckon I eat about 60% of the national average; two Camry-to-Prius swaps, which makes me feel a bit better about my RX/7.

1 comment:

Ros said...

Hi, I'm the vegan sister! (Not quite vegan these days though, to my shame.) Don't just cut out, or down on, meat - it's dairy products, too.
By reducing animal products you'll reduce your carbon footprint, do something toward animal welfare (those of you in the US should really look at the ghastly way beef is produced over there these days) and you'll probably be healthier, too.
And no - beans really don't make you fart!