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  • Victoria Figueroa

Food for thought: beef

Updated: May 16, 2021


Meat is one of the main contributing factors to your carbon footprint and has multiple negative impacts on the environment. Beef, specifically, is most detrimental, closely followed by lamb.

One issue with beef production is the number of greenhouse gases that are released in the process. Cows are ruminants, meaning they ferment plant-based foods to acquire the necessary nutrients for their diet.

According to Vitacost, this fermentation process causes a high production of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that traps heat 25 times more than carbon dioxide. In actuality, the gases released to prepare just one pound of beef could burn 2.6 gallons of fuel in your car.

Cattle raised for both the purposes of beef and milk are the animal species responsible for the most emissions.

Additionally, they require an immense amount of land and resources, more so than other farm animals. Studies show beef production demands 28 times more land and 11 times more water than the production of pork or chicken.

A cow consumes 10 to 14 pounds of feed for every pound of beef that is produced. Subsequently, farmers in places such as the Amazonian region plant more corn and soy for their cattle, furthering deforestation. In fact, cattle ranching causes 80% of the deforestation in the Amazon.

There is also the moral dilemma of slaughtering an animal for the purpose of human consumption. This is a reason why many choose to cut down on the animal products they eat or even eliminate them from their diet entirely.

If you can get past the animal cruelty involved in beef production, there are also health conditions you can develop to worry about. While there is past research to link red meat consumption to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, new research shows eating red meat regularly could shorten your lifespan too.

The findings suggest that substituting other healthy protein sources for red meat could improve peoples’ health.

However, it can be difficult to give up meat, especially all at once. YouMatter recommends that you choose less polluting meat and purchase it from small farms to be sure the animals are raised in the open air and fed in pastures.

The Guardian urges meat-eaters to buy organic and grass-reared beef, but also to purchase it less frequently. Try to look for beef from retired dairy cows if you are eating out as well.

For even more information on the consequences of beef production on the environment, check out this article.

Article Written By Eden Leavey

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