Cows, Cars & Climate Change

31 01 2009

What’s the number one way you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do your part to tackle climate change for us and our animal friends?


Drive less – right?


Wrong! The average family car – by most estimates – produces the equivalent of between 4 and 5 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) annually. Let’s go with the higher number to be on the safe side. Google it, do your own research if you like, but for now we’ll go with 5 tons of climate-altering fossil fuels being pumped into our atmosphere for every single car on the road.


So what could be worse than that? The answer – unbelievable to many – is meat production. Producing – and, therefore, eating – meat takes a much harder toll on the environment than driving your family car.


How is this possible? Let’s break it down:


• A pound of beef requires three-quarters of a gallon of oil to produce it. By the time a beef cow reaches its adult weight of over 1200 lbs., it will have “consumed” 283 gallons of oil, producing 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over 5 years.


• Its manure will produce 20 lbs. of nitrous oxide (N2O) annually, a greenhouse gas that is 296 times more powerful than CO2.


• Its digestive system will produce 285 lbs. of methane (CH4) annually, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more powerful than CO2.


• When you add these together, a beef cow will produce 6.8 tons of CO2 equivalent a year, considerably more than the average family car.


• The average meat eater is responsible for 3.8 tons of CO2 equivalent a year from eating beef.


And let’s step aside from climate change comparisons for a moment and look at three other key ways meat-eating impacts our environment:


• 90% of the packaging used in meat production is not recycled.


• A pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce it, leading to water depletion. The Ogallala aquifer is losing 13 trillion gallons of water a year; some wells in Northwest Texas are already running dry.


• The waste from a cow, which is 130 times greater than it is from a human, often contaminates water systems and soil with disease-bearing organisms.


So, if you’re going to be a climate change activist, start right where it counts the very most – on your dinner plate. Eat less, or no, meat.1105174539_df02fbf370