Beef dishes are very popular and make mouth-watering meat eaters all over the world. A 2014 survey showed that steak was America’s favorite dish. Unfortunately, by cooking a lot of cows, people also cook themselves.
Food’s impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may go unnoticed for some time. A survey was conducted in the UK last year. The percentage of respondents who said that “plant and meat production contributes significantly to climate change” was the lowest among the ten activities listed. However, two papers were published this year in nature foods That food, especially beef, produces more greenhouse gases than previously thought. Leaving out steaks can be one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
In 2019 it was estimated Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) of the United Nations that the global food system is responsible for 21 to 37 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In March of this year, researchers from the European Commission and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agency released a centrally-rated study. They attributed 34 percent of the greenhouse gases produced in 2015 to food.
A similar publication compared the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of cattle and dairy cattle to the total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the most polluting countries. This indicates that cows and dairy cows alone emit as much as the United States (US).
This high share is partly due to the addition formula. The study attributes the full impact of deforestation to the resulting agriculture. Emissions after food is sold (eg waste and cooking) are also included. But even excluding embedded emissions from sources such as transportation and packaging, the authors still find that agriculture produces 24 percent of greenhouse gases. According to the World Resources Institute, a research group produces a total of 16 percent of cars, trains, ships and planes.
Another recent paper, by Xiaoming Xu of the University of Illinois in the US, breaks this effect across 171 crops and 16 animal products. The research shows that animal foods account for 57 percent of greenhouse gases in agriculture, compared to 29 percent for plant foods. Cow’s milk and beef alone accounted for 34 percent. Combined with the results of the previous study, this means that livestock are responsible for 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions from livestock are reduced
Compared to other food sources, beef is particularly carbon-dense. For example, cattle emit more methane and need large pastures, which often leads to deforestation. As a result, they produce nearly ten times more gases per kilogram of protein than alternative animal proteins and more than 30 times more than plant proteins. This makes beef more abnormal among foods than charcoal among electricity sources.
These numbers underscore the environmental benefits of reducing beef production. The methane dissipates relatively quickly, which means that emissions from livestock will soon stop heating the planet if those animals are not replaced. This change can also increase plant food production. The land now used to grow animal fodder is being freed up for other crops. Producing one calorie of beef requires 33 vegetarian calories.
The easiest way to reduce beef production is for people to eat other animals or to become vegetarian instead. But persuading meat eaters to give up burgers is a challenge. Fortunately, cultured meat products, which are going from petri dishes to the best restaurants, are making more and more progress.
It’s hard to imagine a diet without beef (from live cattle), but that was also an economy without coal 100 years ago. Finally, farmed meat can play a vital role in averting climate catastrophe.