As if we needed yet another reason to eat less beef, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has found that out of the 5 main sources of animal protein in the United States (beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy), beef production has by far the largest environmental impact. The study suggests that minimizing beef consumption would effectively mitigate the environmental costs of our everyday diets.
The study found that cattle raised for beef need as much as 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water per consumed calorie. Beef production is also responsible for 5 times the greenhouse gases, and 6 times the reactive nitrogen than the average of the other livestock categories.
As the study suggests, this matters because “livestock-based food production is an important way humans impact the environment.” Globally, it is responsible for around one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is also the key land user and source of water pollution by nutrient overabundance.
The study’s authors say that their analysis is based on the best data currently available, but follow-up studies will be necessary to improve knowledge in this field of sustainability science. Nevertheless, the clear conclusion from the study is that beef production demands about an order of magnitude more resources than the other livestock categories.
Although lamb was not part of this study, we’ve previously reported (3 years ago) on a study that indicated that out of 20 animal products, lamb had the largest carbon footprint, followed by beef.
Image CC licensed by USDA NRCS South Dakota
Via Froceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, BBC