Saving the environment from the grips of global warming could be as easy as watching what you eat.
According to a new report by the World Resources Institute, we all need to stop consuming beef–ASAP. We know, we know–that’s not the food you were hoping to see here, especially leading into barbecue season. But hear us out! Because after you have a look at some of the numbers this report presents, you might actually lose your appetite for it anyway.
Typically when we think about greenhouse gas emissions, we think about things like oil production or gas-spewing cars. But beef production has somehow managed to fly under the radar, even though it may be just as (if not more) harmful to the planet. In other words, putting a steak on your plate requires the clearing of forests for pasture, water to grow feed for the cows, more water to keep the cows alive and there’s the energy costs related to actually processing the meat.
“One-quarter of the Earth’s landmass, excluding Antarctica, is used as pasture, and beef accounts for one-third of the global water footprint of farm animal production,” the report reads.
Here’s a look at how beef stacks up to other common foods (click to enlarge):
Pretty staggering, right? To put that in perspective, the U.S. Geological Survey found a 1/4 pound beef burger patty requires 150 gallons of water ( a pound of chicken requires ten). And when you consider that beef demand is expected to skyrocket 95 per cent by 2050, these problems are likely only going to get worse. In fact, beef production is now increasingly reliant on the clearing of savannas and woodlands as the Earth runs out of space for pasture.
The real problem with beef though, is that it’s one of the least efficient foods to produce in terms of resource efficiency.
“When accounting for all feeds, including both crops and forages, by one estimate only 1 percent of gross cattle feed calories and 4 percent of ingested protein are converted to human-edible calories and protein, respectively,” the report reads. “In comparison, by this estimate, poultry convert 11 percent of feed calories and 20 percent of feed protein into human edible calories and protein.”
The report actually found that lamb and goat are worse for the environment, but the authors still focused on beef, likely because it’s much more common.
The foods that are a little easier on the environment when it comes to production include:
Fruits and vegetables are generally good choices as well, but the World Resources Institute’s ranking was based around protein, which is why they weren’t highlighted.
We get that this all sounds like bad news, but there is a pretty big silver lining here. For one, beef is extremely expensive. It has one of the fastest growing prices of all the items in your supermarket, which means you’d be doing your bank account a favour by nixing it from your diet. Plus, red meat has been linked to cancer. So cutting it from your diet is actually good for your wallet, your body and the environment.
Now that’s what we call a win-win-win.