Is there a connection between eating beef and our current climate status and is there anything you can do to help?
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production. That’s about the same volume of emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today.
Specifically, the FAO points to feed production and intestinal fermentation (a.k.a. cow burps) as the primary sources of emissions.
Almost half of the global cattle industry’s emissions come from intestinal fermentation. Because of the amount of beef we consume, cow burps are a substantial source of methane.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that can trap more heat in the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), methane is more than 20 times as effective as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere, and the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has increased by 143% over the past 200 years.
Feed production leads to greenhouse gas emissions because, in many parts of the world, forests are being clear cut to make space for growing feed crops. Trees are important, natural CO2-absorbing tools, so removing thousands of acres of them has a high emissions cost.
According to the World Resources Institute, if the average American replaced a third of the beef they eat with pork, poultry, or legumes, their food-related emissions would fall by about 13%. So if you eat beef 6 days out of the week, only cutting back a little to 4 days each week significantly reduces your plate’s carbon impact!
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