Sunday, October 25, 2009

51% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Traced to Humanity's Meat Consumption: New Report

Here's one to chew on:

(A) new analysis from Worldwatch Institute shows that the impact of raising livestock and poultry is much greater than previously thought and actually amounts to approximately 51% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions:

The FAO's widely-cited 2006 report Livestock's Long Shadow listed annual greenhouse gas emissions from livestock to be 11.8%. However, Worldwatch shows that the FAO severely undercounted or misallocated emissions from a number of areas in the livestock production chain.

More than anything it seems an exercise in making sure emissions are properly attributed.

Yet another reason to hug a vegetarian.  If you like to eat meat, as I admittedly do, you can still dramatically reduce your impact by sticking with organic chicken and MSC-approved fish, and by avoiding beef as much as possible.

What, you say?  You love yourself a big juicy steak -- at least on occasion?  Aim for one that is organic and grass-fed, ideally from a local ranch is truly sustainable: not only organic, but also doesn't overgraze, fences off streams from cows, and so forth.  While we still need a good eco-certification for vetting sustainably produced beef and lamb (and helping us avoid meat from ranches that are overgrazed to smithereens), Bay Area friends can check out Stemple Creek Ranch...

Read about Worldwatch's meaty accounting of emissions>>


  1. I've heard that report before. It's pretty crazy to think that so many greenhouse gasses could ever come from cows.

  2. A lot comes directly from the cows, but a lot also comes from producing their feed (and feed for chickens, pigs, etc.), and a whole lot that this report discusses comes from grazing or crop land that could otherwise be growing carbon-absorbing forest if it weren't being used for feeding livestock. It takes less land to produce plant-based food for us to eat than to run it through relatively inefficient animals to produce steaks, milk, etc., so land use is a big part of this.

    Moderating animal product consumption (always nice to hug a vegetarian, but you can make a difference w/out becoming one) is a really easy (and cheap) way we can take responsibility for our individual environmental impacts.

    Bernard Brown
    The PB&J Campaign