green_house_proteins
by ecorazzicontributor
Categories: Animals, Causes, Eats.
Photo: ewg.org

Most of us already know that meat production isn’t good for the environment. But the Environmental Working Group’s in-depth study on the impact of raising animals for slaughter, especially in factory farming, sheds even more light on the subject.

The graph above shows various sources of proteins and their environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions both during and after production. It turns out that lamb causes the most emissions, more than even beef.

Luckily, Americans don’t eat too much lamb. Beef and cheese, on the other hand, show up a lot, especially in processed and fast foods. It’s no surprise that beef shows up second on the list of CO2 offenders (not to mention the dangers of using antibiotics in crowded meat processing plants), but to see cheese so high up on the list is disheartening. Vegans, gloat away. 

The EWG’s “Meat Eater’s Guide” doesn’t necessarily promote a vegan lifestyle, though. Sure, everyone sticking to grains and forgoing meat entirely might be the best thing for the environment, but it’s an unrealistic expectation. The report takes a more reasonable approach by encouraging meat eaters to simply eat less, and to eat local, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free meat whenever possible.

Just lay off the lamb.

  • Caitlin

    Does it explain why? I don’t think you can blame “factory farming” as most lamb is not intensively reared. I would like to know more about this as lamb is my favourite meat.

  • http://www.herwinsvegancafe.com herwin

    its more likely that people go veg or flexitarian after learning more about meat production (animal cruelty + bahahad for the environment + unfair distribution of global food + abuse of human medicines like peninciline + desctruction of rainforests for growing animal feed), than that people go buy “local, grass fed and hormone free” meat.

    Anyway, great graph, something else the average meateater has to deny and opres in his mind, all in the name of tastebuds…LOL

    • Will

      herwin – Are you aware of the fact that in many areas where
      sheep are raised they are rotated in pasture used to grow
      wheat, oats, and barley? Why? In the non-growing season the
      sheep graze and, while grazing, leave their manure pellets
      scattered over the fields, thus reducing the need for
      fertilizer or, in some cases, eliminating the need for any
      commercial fertilizers.

      Sorry, herwin, but the truth is always more complicated than
      the self-righteous puffery of eco-freaks.

  • Ian Ray

    Caitlin, “factory farming” does not necessarily equal high impact and practices labelled “sustainable farming” do not necessarily equal low impact.

    For example, intensively farmed lamb could have its ammonia emissions neutralized with bedding. Also, composting techniques have been shown to filter GHG emissions that open-air manure spreading does not. Even in the case of manure digesters, electricity can be produced which offsets impacts.

    Countries such as New Zealand have been under scrutiny for their self-proclaimed green lamb products. While it is true that they have copious open grasslands to feed their herds, this doesn’t take into account the externalized pollution that can result from extensive production.

    I choose the words can and may as there are good and bad production methods for either intensive or extensive animal rearing. Contemporary media seems to ignore this grey area in favor of false dichotomy of factory versus sustainable farming. Stripped of buzzwords, one can hopefully see that the CO2 figures and such do not represent and inescapable average.

    I would also add that since lamb is a seasonal meat already consumed in lower quantities than other meats, I wouldn’t think eating steak instead of lamb chops constitutes doing something for the planet.