The Carbon Footprint of Meat- Energy Consumption:

A Carbon footprint is a means of measuring human impact on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas produced by an activity. It is a way for people to understand and quantify their individual impact in contributing to global warming. Carbon footprint calculations are typically based on annual emissions from the previous 12 months.

According to a report from the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transportation.

All food choices have some impact to your carbon footprint, but growing plants is much more efficient than raising animals. Growing produce requires approximately 2 fossil fuel calories to create 1 food calorie. It takes between 20 and 80 fossil fuel calories to create 1 food calorie of animal protein.

One and one half tons (3000 pounds) divided by the 365 days in a year equals 8.22 pounds per person per day.

By pledging to go meatless on Monday for the month of October, you will reduce your carbon footprint by almost 33 pounds. So for every 61 people who pledge we can reduce Bellingham’s collective carbon footprint by about one ton.


 Conventional vs. Local or Grass Fed Meat

Almost all data and research is taken from animals raised in a feed lot.  Local or grass fed meat is healthier, more sustainable, and better for the environment.  The Center For Food Safety recommends to limit your consumption of conventional meat, dairy, and farmed seafood. Buy organic, local or grass-fed meat and dairy whenever possible, since these foods are produced without energy-intensive synthetic pesticides and herbicides and may use fewer fossil fuels, and look for wild (not farmed), local seafood.”  

The Center For Food Safety also states that “animals in industrial systems are fed foods they can not biologically process. They are confined to unhealthy and overcrowded cages – conditions that contribute to malnutrition and disease. In an attempt to keep animals healthy they are sprayed with over 2 million pounds of insecticides, and their cages are sprayed with over 360,000 pounds of insecticides every year. They also ingest an astounding 84% of all the antimicrobials, including antibiotics, used annually in the United States.

Every year, livestock consume about half of all of the grains and oilseeds that are grown in the U.S., thereby consuming over 14 billion pounds of fertilizers and over 174 million pounds of pesticides. Producing all of these chemicals requires huge amounts of energy and is a major cause of global warming.”


Deforestation and Grassland Destruction:

The livestock sector is the largest human use of land. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that “Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth’s surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the reminder. About 70 percent of all grazing land in dry areas is considered degraded, mostly because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion attributable to livestock activity.”


 Impact to Fresh Water: 

Water is arguably our most precious resource; one that is disappearing at an alarming rate. Plants require significantly less water to produce than livestock.

Amount of water needed to produce 1 kg of:

  • Maize…………..    900 L
  • Rice……………. 3 000 L
  • Chicken……….. 3 900 L
  • Pork………….    4 900 L
  • Beef………….   15 500 L



Again from the UN FAO report “Indeed, the livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity…” And “livestock now account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the 30 percent of the earth’s land surface that they now pre-empt was once habitat for wildlife.”


Food Productivity of Farmland –Livestock vs. Plants:

According to the UN, 758 million metric tons (836 million tons) of grain and corn that is raised for livestock feed could otherwise feed people. That’s more than 7 times the amount used for biofuels and is more than enough to adequately feed the 1.4 billion humans who are living in dire poverty. This number doesn’t even include the fact that almost all of the global soy crop (about 240 million tons of soy) is also fed to chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals.


Increase in Meat Consumption in Last 50 Years:

According to the Worldwatch Institute, farmers produced an estimated 276 million tons of chicken, pork, beef, and other meat in 2006—four times as much as in 1961. On average, each person eats twice as much meat as back then, about 43 kilograms.

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