Why Beef Is The Worst Food For The Climate

How does livestock contribute to global warming?

According to FAO data, 14. A fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans can be traced back to the livestock farming industry, which releases methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) in addition to carbon dioxide (CO2), with an estimated E2%80%94% of these gases thought to have a similar role to CO2 in causing global warming. Methane and nitrous oxide have a climate warming potential that is approximately 25 times and 300 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, despite not remaining in the atmosphere for as long as CO2. In order to evaluate the effects of various greenhouse gases, one commonly computes a carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2eq.

A significant source of greenhouse gases is cattle farms: Rupert Oberhäuser/dpa/picture alliance

The majority of emissions in livestock farming come from the production of feed (58%) and are released during the digestive processes of animals (31%); methane is produced in large quantities by ruminants like cattle, sheep, and goats. The transportation and processing sectors contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions (7%), as does the manure storage sector (4%). Approximately 287 percent of the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide in livestock farming can be traced back to cattle farming due to the sheer quantity of animals raised.

These numbers relate to the total livestock farming industry, which includes dairy farming, cheese production, gelatin production, and wool production. For instance, a significant portion of methane emissions are associated with dairy cows.

It can be inferred that approximately 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 came from livestock farming, accounting for E2%80%94% of total emissions that were produced by the transportation sector.

Does avoiding meat slow down global warming?

Examining greenhouse gas emissions tied to livestock farming does not tell us everything about the impact of meat consumption on the climate. As such, comparing greenhouse gas emission from plant-based and animal-based foods is more insightful. A 2021 study published in Nature Food did just this.

Plant-based foods were found to be responsible for only 22.9 percent of the greenhouse gases released by the global food industry. On the other hand, the industry’s 20%57% of greenhouse gas emissions are related to the breeding and raising of cows, pigs, and other livestock as well as the production of feed. It is estimated that the production of beef alone accounts for 25% of the food industry’s total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The production of rice, which produces more greenhouse gases than that of pork, poultry, lamb, mutton, and dairy products, comes next.

The study analyzes total global greenhouse gas emissions for each food product. A more nuanced pictures emerges when one studies the environmental impact in producing just 1 kilogram of the different foods. With 99.48 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilogram, beef production remains the biggest source of greenhouse gases. This is more than double the carbon dioxide equivalents per kilogram linked to lamb and mutton production (39.72 kilograms).

The production of pork and poultry has lower carbon dioxide equivalents, at 12. 31 kilograms and 9. 87 per kilogram of meat, respectively. Both also emit fewer emissions than cheese production (23. 88 kilograms) and fish farming (13. 63 kilograms). This indicates that the type of meat produced and consumed has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. For example, eating chicken instead of beef already results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Nowadays, people eat 9 kg of beef on average per day, which leaves 0 8 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. If North Americans and Europeans stopped consuming beef, they would reduce 1 2 tons and 3. 3 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, respectively.

Why does meat have such a big climate impact?

Consider this: Growing crops for human consumption is frequently more efficient than growing crops for animal consumption, which is then used to produce food for humans.

In their defense, cows, chickens and pigs often eat a lot of things that humans wouldn’t otherwise eat, like grasses or crop residues, and meat can be rich in key nutrients like protein and iron. But, in general, it takes more land, energy and water to produce a pound of animal protein than it does to produce a pound of plant protein.