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Scientific American: Beef contributes 13 times the greenhouse gas impact of chicken, 57x potatoes

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Scientific American reports

 

  • Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57 [for pork it's 4].
  • Beef consumption is rising rapidly, both as population increases and as people eat more meat.
  • Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.
post #2 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.

 

Oooff.  Yeah...it's pretty amazing what eating higher on the food chain does in terms of emissions.  It's a good case for cutting down on beef consumption, or eliminating it all together.  But...sometimes I just hanker for a good hamburger.  Is that terrible?

post #3 of 23

 sort of surprised to hear that people are eating more meat these days --- especially with the new wave of anti-obesity campaigns and fad dieting....

post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stins:
But...sometimes I just hanker for a good hamburger.  Is that terrible?


 

Yes, you're just a bad person.

 

No, just kidding.  Nothing wrong with eating beef every so often in moderation.  I do too, usually when my mom or wife make it (though I emailed them both this story).  My problem is that my wife hates fish and pork, and doesn't really like poultry.  So sometimes I get stuck with beef.

 

But the idea is just minimize meat eating as much as possible, particularly beef.  You don't have to go cold turkey (or cold beef)!

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by alibisf:

 sort of surprised to hear that people are eating more meat these days --- especially with the new wave of anti-obesity campaigns and fad dieting....


 

I believe the increased meat consumption is mainly due to people in developing countries becoming more wealthy and being able to afford more meat in their diets.

post #6 of 23

I wish more restaurants offered beef alternative burgers.  It's easy to change your habits at home but I'm with Stins, sometimes you just want to go out and have a juicy burger!  We have a totally awesome burger place called the Purple Cow and they have turkey burger and veggie burger on their menu.  I would be interested to see if big chain fast food joints would be willing to pick up the trend.  I guess Turkey is more expensive though, so local eat-in chains are the most likely.  Could you imagine a Turkey Whopper?

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

In the rare case when we get fast food, it's usually from Jack in the Box.  I used to get hamburgers there, but now I usually get a chicken sandwich, or sometimes a salad.  They've actually got a decent non-beef menu (although in terms of taste I admit I prefer the burgers!).

post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

I believe the increased meat consumption is mainly due to people in developing countries becoming more wealthy and being able to afford more meat in their diets.

 

good point.

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

I believe the increased meat consumption is mainly due to people in developing countries becoming more wealthy and being able to afford more meat in their diets.

 

Yeah from what I understand it's mostly China--wondering though, as I didn't see very many dates in that article, has meat consumption tapered off a bit since the economic crash?

post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dawei:

Yeah from what I understand it's mostly China--wondering though, as I didn't see very many dates in that article, has meat consumption tapered off a bit since the economic crash?

 

Good question, I'm not sure.

post #11 of 23

I wouldn't be surprised is US Beef consumption has slowed (except in the fast food market) all the grocery store beef went up hugely in price when the oil prices went up.

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by srj0385:

We have a totally awesome burger place called the Purple Cow and they have turkey burger and veggie burger on their menu.  I would be interested to see if big chain fast food joints would be willing to pick up the trend.  I guess Turkey is more expensive though, so local eat-in chains are the most likely.  Could you imagine a Turkey Whopper?

 

There's place fairly close to Huddler HQ called Custom Burger.  They do salmon and lamb burgers too.  Anyone know anything about the difference between carbon footprint of lamb versus beef?

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stins:
Anyone know anything about the difference between carbon footprint of lamb versus beef?


 

Well sheep are ruminant animals, and they require a fair amount of pasture land and feed, so it's probably fairly comparable to beef.  The one advantage of lamb - and this is going to sound a little gruesome - is that they're killed when they're young, so fewer resources go into feeding them and making them grow.  I would guess that lamb is somewhere between beef and pork in terms of global warming impact.

post #14 of 23

stins, i was interested too, as i love lamb, so i boogled about, a lot of stuff was referring to a paper i had a few issues with and it seems i'm not only one, this blogger has done the work for me;

fatknowledge.blogspot.com/2007/04/vegans-vs-hybrids.html

 

of course, its complicated by lots of things;

transport

diet of animal

alternative uses for land.

 

i eat local meat, tonight we had sausages from a pig i had actually patted on the back at my ma's friend's smallholding a few villages away. last week we had lamb from her as well. the transport was in effect nil, as she had to come over anyway for something else.

 

i do insist we eat grass fed lamb and beef, as this makes a difference in embodied energy, methane emissions (less than for grain fed, which is a bit of an un-natural diet), and tieing up land otherwise useful for crops. we have very heavy clay, and chalk downland both very locally which are no good for agriculture, only really sustainable use for such soils is permanent pasture.

 

oops, or forest, orchards, woodland gardens etc. which are obviously even better, but one could get sick of nuts.....and a bit of poo is very useful, i am a big fan of mixed agrarian, it has been shown in some studies to be more productive overall than vegan animal free horticulture, as the green manures needed otherwise are land-intensive.

 


Edited by gerda - Thu, 29 Jan 2009 21:38:13 GMT
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 

Well according to that study, lamb has a slightly larger impact than beef.  It could be because there's a lot more cattle than lambs, and so on average, the lamb needs to be transported further than the beef to get to your plate.  That's the only explanation I can come up with.  It's safe to say they're in roughly the same ballpark in terms of global warming impact, because the numbers between the two studies aren't identical.

 

That's a good point about transportation distance.  I don't know about other farmers markets, but mine actually has a guy who sells meat.  So buying local meat like that would be one way to reduce the impact, for those of us who don't have friends who raise livestock!

post #16 of 23

Is it a safe assumption that turkey is comparable to chicken?  I'm not really sure how they are raised, I've only ever seen free range myself.  But where is the ground turkey in the grocery store coming from?  I'd be interested to see chicken and turkey compared as to which would be better in environmental terms.

post #17 of 23

it's got to be different in different circumstances, and very difficult to quantify overall.

 

i just found this wiki on my favourite international action site;

 

www.dothegreenthing.com/wiki/display/WIKI/Eat+less+meat+and+poultry

 

1kg beef = 34.6 kg CO2e
1kg lamb = 17.4 kg CO2e 
1kg pork = 6.35 kg CO2e 
1kg chicken = 4.57 kg CO2e

 

which sounds more like it to me. and worth reading for the other eco stuff. nothing is simple.

 

 

 


Edited by gerda - Thu, 29 Jan 2009 22:42:50 GMT


Edited by gerda - Thu, 29 Jan 2009 22:43:55 GMT


Edited by gerda - Thu, 29 Jan 2009 22:44:30 GMT
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gerda:

 

1kg beef = 34.6 kg CO2e
1kg lamb = 17.4 kg CO2e 
1kg pork = 6.35 kg CO2e 
1kg chicken = 4.57 kg CO2e

 


 

The lamb, pork, and chicken numbers here came from a single British study, while the beef came from another study.  The beef from that same British study is 15-30 kg CO2e (CO2e is CO2 equivalent, for those who don't know, because methane has a larger global warming impact than CO2, for example).

 

So the general consensus seems to be lamb and beef have a similar global warming impact, pork is roughly 4 times less, and chicken about 10 times less than beef/lamb.  To get exact numbers it depends on exactly what factors you're taking into consideration, what geographical area you're looking at, etc. etc.

 

I haven't seen any numbers on turkey, but I would suspect it's in the same ballpark as chicken.

post #19 of 23

So, as a general rule i think what we can gather from all this wonderful research and knowledge is what some have already said:

 

- Eat locally raised meats to reduce transport contributions, support your local economy and farmers

- Eat grass fed meat to reduce methane emissions and leave the grain for starving people

- Eat wild game which is healthier and readily available in most places (in Canada buffalo cannot be contained to be raised for slaughter it has to be allowed to roam and graze naturally)

- Last but, not least (probably the most important rule of all).  Reduce your meat consumption to a few times a week...that will solve most of the problem and really it is just gluttonous to do otherwise considering all the other "non-animal" protein sources that are available to us that most of us never actually consume (legumes, grains, keifer etc etc).

 

In general I've committed to this but, I too succumb to the wafting smell of a juicy non-organic, non-local, grain fed burger (with cheese).....hey we can't be perfect, just perfectly informed and perfectly conscious to make some improvement where meat is concerned (and consumed).

 

 

post #20 of 23

Okay, time for a vegetarian perspective.  My husband eats meat, as to both of my now-grown kids.  But he seldom eats meat, and when he does, it's chicken or fish as often as it is beef.  You've never heard of Mad Fish disease, have you?  Although anything you eat comes with some baggage.  Look at all the recalls that happen nowadays, with peanut products being the recall de jour.

 

There's a lot of issues tied up on this one.  I went Cold Turkey, pun intended, when I turned 17 and I've never looked back.  It's a moral issue for me that became an environmental one.

post #21 of 23

I know for a fact that bufalo are being raised in confinement, ie inside of fences, on a farm just south east of Parkhill, Ontario.

 

But when we start saying use grass fed animals, we are talking mostly ruminants, in current practice. We could be talking chickens, but the economics cited are for chicken raised inside, fed grain. When you raise pasture fed chicken, it costs about the same to the farmer, but the chicken will use more total food. Yes, the food is taking less energy to grow it, but it costs about the same per pound of chicken going to the abatoir. The grass fed chicken has less fat on it, which means it does not look as good on grocer's shelf. (I grew a few thousand grass fed chickens and the processors did not want any next year because they looked skinny with all that running about.)

That running about uses up a lot of food. It is not what the numbers for chicken are discussing.

 

Ruminants tend to produce more nutritious food. They convert cheap food into a full nutrition product by using a  grass and bacteria method that produces every essential component. By contrast, chickens, turkeys, and pork have to have far more complete nutrition provided to them, and still are not as nutritious.

When ruminants feed on grass and weeds, they are more nutritious than when fed grains. But again, the numbers quoted for beef and lamb are not based on grass fed beef and lamb. They are manufactured by using feedlot beef, grain fed lamb. It takes more total food to grow a pound of grass fed beef, even though the pound of beef takes more cost, for growing the food.

post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by donfletcher:

I know for a fact that bufalo are being raised in confinement, ie inside of fences, on a farm just south east of Parkhill, Ontario.

 

Yes ALL Buffalo in Canada are managed herds to protect them from endangerement however, they are not allowed to be confined in stalls or feed lots and there is an infinitely long list of laws surrounding the ethical treatment of those managed herds.  So yes, there are fences around their huge grazing pastures but, they have a very good life indeed...the fences are there to keep them protected from illegal hunting in Canada.  Bison is also most always raised completely natural according to the prohibitions set out by the Canadian Bison Association so you know that you are getting healthy, quality meat rather than the disease of factory farmed animals.

 

Personally I think if people can't afford to eat wild game or organic meat they should switch to vegetarianism or veganism for environmental and health reasons alone.

post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by stins:
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.

 

Oooff.  Yeah...it's pretty amazing what eating higher on the food chain does in terms of emissions.  It's a good case for cutting down on beef consumption, or eliminating it all together.  But...sometimes I just hanker for a good hamburger.  Is that terrible?

I agree wtih all that say. I also try to cut down on the meat, however, I will be "hankering" with you for that burger. As with all things, there is a "middle" line that needs to be identified. I hope everyone had a great weekend. I am now going to lunch....thanks Stins..

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