Free Markets, Free People

Beef Consumption – The Hummer Of Food

Nice biased environmentalist metaphor, isn’t it?

You know we see these sorts of stories all the time, and because they’re just people using causes to attempt to change our behavior, we don’t pay them the attention they deserve. But, if any of the things associated with what you’re about to read were to become law, suddenly choices and amounts of beef could easily be rationed to “save the planet”. Add a little health care legislation and it’s a lock.

When it comes to global warming, hamburgers are the Hummers of food, scientists say.

Simply switching from steak to salad could cut as much carbon as leaving the car at home a couple days a week.

The "Hummer" of food

The "Hummer" of food

That’s because beef is such an incredibly inefficient food to produce and cows release so much harmful methane into the atmosphere, said Nathan Pelletier of Dalhousie University in Canada.

Pelletier is one of a growing number of scientists studying the environmental costs of food from field to plate.

By looking at everything from how much grain a cow eats before it is ready for slaughter to the emissions released by manure, they are getting a clearer idea of the true costs of food.

The livestock sector is estimated to account for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and beef is the biggest culprit.

Even though beef only accounts for 30 percent of meat consumption in the developed world it’s responsible for 78 percent of the emissions, Pelletier said Sunday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

That’s because a single kilogram of beef produces 16 kilograms carbon dioxide equivalent emissions: four times higher than pork and more than ten times as much as a kilogram of poultry, Pelletier said.

If people were to simply switch from beef to chicken, emissions would be cut by 70 percent, Pelletier said.

Another part of the problem is people are eating far more meat than they need to.

“Meat once was a luxury in our diet,” Pelletier said. “We used to eat it once a week. Now we eat it every day.”

If meat consumption in the developed world was cut from the current level of about 90 kilograms a year to the recommended level of 53 kilograms a year, livestock related emissions would fall by 44 percent.

The way things are going it wouldn’t surprise me one day to see PSAs like the Chik-fil-A commercials saying, “Eat More Chikin” and cut emissions by 70% – it’s the law!


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

14 Responses to Beef Consumption – The Hummer Of Food

  • Reminds me of the old joke:

    “Do you know how much cows contribute to global warming?  What are you doing for the environment?”

    “I’m eating the cows, but I’m only one man.  There is only so much I can do.”

  • So what does this say of Il Douche‘s wagyu dinners at the White House ?
    Did he say “Pardon Me” when he was done ?

  • I use lots of turkey and chicken, mainly because of the lower costs with doing so.  My kids even like my spaghetti sauce made with spiced tofu (it disappeared really fast last night).  And I do keep my car in the garage most days because the commuter train stop is only a mile away.  These are all personal lifestyle choices on my part that have little to do with “saving the planet” although I am sure the greenies out there would love to think I’m one of them.   Still, there’s nothing like a well-done grilled steak smothered in sauteed onions and mushrooms. 


  • When the Gov. went after cigarettes years ago,  I knew food would be next. It is not that the Gov. wants to ban anything, but find a way to tax it. If it is something everybody likes, the Gov. only needs to make it evil. 

  • Maddox Mission once had a link in his Guiltless Grill article to a study that said eating free range beef, dairy, and veggies was the most environemntally friendly diet when you considered how many animals are killed by grain combines.

  • I wonder if this study was conducted on feedlot beef which is fed mostly corn or grass fed beef.  According to Cornell university and the USDA, corn fed beef produces more acid resistant strands of E.Coli due to the corn not being fully digested by the time it reaches the colon there by increasing the acidity there as it ferments.  Given the fact that methane producing bacteria live in intestines of animals and feed off the undigested remnants of food i would suspect that the corn fed cows would produce more methane than their grass fed counterparts. 

    If this was used as the standard and applied to the entire bovine population then i’m sure their numbers are way off.

  • Reason # 9,008 why QandO readers find AGW theory difficult to stomach:

    ANYTHING could be regulated all in the name of “saving the planet” from global warming.


  • Yes, but we all know in our hearts that only bad things (things done by people who don’t think like us) will be regulated, so it’s okay!

  • You can take my beef, but you’ll never take my chicken-fried bacon!

  • No, much better than chicken-fried bacon:


  • This article dovetails nicely with the EPA plan to tax beef cows at $87.50/hd /yr and hogs @$20/hd/yr.

  • Chicken fried bacon with cream gravy?? Great Caesar’s ghost man, that is nothing more than grease fried in grease covered with more grease, with some refined flour added to hold it together.   How do they keep it from sliding off the plate? I had palpitations just looking at it.

    Turbaconducken? I am going to show that to my cardiologist the next time I see him. Should be interesting.  FIVE POUNDS of bacon???? 

    What wine do you serve with that? 

  • Tim, turbaconducken is totally Atkins-friendly.  Unlike flour-based gravy 🙂

  • It should be obvious by now that the solution to all environmental issues is “live in poverty.”