Put down that burger if you care about the environment!
That is the concluding message from a new study that shows beef has the largest environmental impact out of any other animal product consumed by humans.
According to the study published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to produce one calorie of beef, 11 times more water and six times more nitrogen fertilizer are used than the other animal products. Not that pork, poultry, dairy and eggs are innocent in the process. They have relatively similar levels but beef still uses more resources and produces more greenhouse gasses than all others. Fish was not included in the study for the lack of comprehensive information available and because it only constitutes about 0.5 percent of the average american diet.
The authors, Gidon Eshel of Bard College, Alon Shepon and Ron Milo of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Tamar Makov of Yale University, found that 40 percent of all the land in the United States is used for the production of animal products. The space is taken by pasture and feed crops for the animals that are eventually turned into food themselves.
“Because our results reflect current US farm policies and agrotechnology, the picture can change markedly in response to changes in agricultural technology and practice, national policies, and personal choice,” they write while suggesting a few improvements.
Firstly, they offer the idea of using the areas dedicated to feed crops to make crops that could be consumed by humans, lowering the carbon footprint of their diets. The also suggest that if people can’t completely eliminate animal products from their diet, they can at least choose the ones that least harm the Earth in their production.
This elimination approach has been recently endorsed by Sir Richard Branson, who announced last week he will no longer be eating beef in order to save the environment.