Six Reasons Why Meat is ‘Greener’ Than You Think

1. Livestock production is not a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.

Six Reasons Why Meat is ‘Greener’ Than You Think

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data show that all of agriculture contributes 7 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, while livestock production accounts for 4.2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, transportation accounts for 27 percent and energy production 31 percent.

2. It takes far less water to produce one pound of boneless beef than many other popular consumer products.

Meat and Environment Water

Per pound, boneless beef production requires approximately 441 gallons of water. While this may sound like a lot, it takes 713 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt and 39,090 gallons to manufacture one car.

3. Grain-fed beef is more environmentally sustainable than grass-fed beef.

Meat and Environment Grain-fed

According to research from Washington State University, it takes 226 more days for grass-finished cattle to reach market weight than grain-finished cattle, meaning that each pound of grain-finished beef requires 45 percent less land, 76 percent less water, and 49 percent less feed, while generating 51 percent less manure and 42 percent fewer carbon emissions.

4. Large modern cattle operations are more environmentally-friendly than ever before.

Meat and Environment Large Cattle Operations

A 2010 Washington State University study examined modern beef production and found that since 1977, advances in production practices resulted in 13 percent more beef with 13 percent fewer animals. The study found that modern beef production uses 30 percent less land and 20 percent less feed.

5. Abstaining from eating meat one day per week has only a negligible impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Meat and Environment Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, just 4.2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock agriculture, with beef contributing 1.4 percent. If all Americans were to cut out beef one day a week, emissions would be cut by 0.2 percent. Individual changes within the areas of energy production and transportation, which are responsible for 31 and 26 percent of carbon emissions respectively, can have a greater impact.

6. Meat production may actually produce some benefits for the environment.

Meat and Environment Meat Production

Grazing cattle can reduce the land’s natural emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that environmentalists agree is more damaging than carbon dioxide.