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posted by janrinok on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the order-another-burger dept.

Research into the environmental impact of animal-based foods has concluded that beef has the greatest impact by a large margin (Full text [pdf]).

When the numbers were in, including those for the environmental costs of different kinds of feed (pasture, roughage such as hay, and concentrates such as corn), the team developed equations that yielded values for the environmental cost per calorie and then per unit of protein, for each food.

The calculations showed that the biggest culprit, by far, is beef. That was no surprise, say Milo and Shepon. The surprise was in the size of the gap: In total, eating beef is more costly to the environment by an order of magnitude about ten times on average than other animal-derived foods, including pork and poultry. Cattle require on average 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water, are responsible for releasing 5 times more greenhouse gases, and consume 6 times as much nitrogen, as eggs or poultry. Poultry, pork, eggs and dairy all came out fairly similar. That was also surprising, because dairy production is often thought to be relatively environmentally benign. But the research shows that the price of irrigating and fertilizing the crops fed to milk cows as well as the relative inefficiency of cows in comparison to other livestock jacks up the cost significantly.

 
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  • (Score: 1, Redundant) by fliptop on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:27PM

    by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:27PM (#72822) Journal

    We're certainly not going back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, are we?

    --
    To be oneself, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity
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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:34PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:34PM (#72828)

    How about reading the title, summary or article?

    • (Score: 0, Flamebait) by fliptop on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:50PM

      by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:50PM (#72838) Journal

      How about reading the title, summary or article?

      I did, and what I see is death by a thousand slices. To me this is just a way for all the chicken-littles to cry the sky is falling, you must stop eating beef and drinking milk and eating cheese. If they were successful, and everyone started shunning beef and turned to chicken/pork/fish, don't you think the next study will be "producing pork is X times more harmful to the environment than chicken and fish?"

      It's nothing more than a ploy by environmentalist wackos (and possibly vegetarians) to shame us knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers into submission.

      --
      To be oneself, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by hoochiecoochieman on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:04PM

        by hoochiecoochieman (4158) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:04PM (#72844)

        They can pry my pork from my cold, dead hands!

        • (Score: 2) by Alfred on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:28PM

          by Alfred (4006) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:28PM (#72860) Journal

          I like the diversity of beef, pork and chicken so...

          You can pry my fork from my cold, dead hands!

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:14PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:14PM (#72850) Journal

        Agreed, its also the top item on the vegan agenda.

        From TFS:

        including those for the environmental costs of different kinds of feed (pasture, roughage such as hay, and concentrates such as corn)

        The point here is that we have no way to feed ourselves with pasture roughage and hay OTHER THAN by Cattle, sheep, or goats. We can't eat that stuff. So its not like we can just stop doing that and plant turnips or something.

        Any alternative crops that we could grow on that pastureland would take much higher population densities to manage, and do much more environmental damage.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Sir Garlon on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:28PM

          by Sir Garlon (1264) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:28PM (#72861)

          Where are mod points when I need them?

          This is an excellent point, that you can't compare a hectare of semi-arid pastureland with a hectare of fertile soil. Some of the land used for cattle production can't be put to more productive use.

          On the other hand, a lot of cattle are grain-fed so the land and water used to provide their feed *could* be used to produce other food instead.

          --
          [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
          • (Score: 2) by Hairyfeet on Thursday July 24 2014, @02:15AM

            by Hairyfeet (75) <reversethis-{moc ... {8691tsaebssab}> on Thursday July 24 2014, @02:15AM (#73081) Journal

            I agree and would just like to say that being in the middle of BF AR, surrounded by fricking cows and pastures allow me to say this...the land them cows are grazed on? You aren't doing jack shit with it OTHER than grazing animals, its just not good enough land to be worth it. All the land that was good enough to plant crops on? they planted crops ages ago while the land the cows are on is hilly, often strewn with rocks and old stumps, and when you actually dig into the soil even AFTER having decades of cow shit umped on it the only thing you'll grow there is weeds, its just not good dirt. With most of the pastures its just junk land that if you didn't put cows on it the only things it would be producing is snake and weeds.

            --
            ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
            • (Score: 3, Insightful) by dry on Thursday July 24 2014, @06:08AM

              by dry (223) on Thursday July 24 2014, @06:08AM (#73145) Journal

              Bison?

              • (Score: 2) by Hairyfeet on Thursday July 24 2014, @06:58AM

                by Hairyfeet (75) <reversethis-{moc ... {8691tsaebssab}> on Thursday July 24 2014, @06:58AM (#73150) Journal

                And what would you DO with them? They have the same footprint, same impact, only difference is not too many like the meat so you'll end up with a lot of rotting meat headed for the landfills.

                --
                ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
                • (Score: 2) by dry on Sunday July 27 2014, @04:12AM

                  by dry (223) on Sunday July 27 2014, @04:12AM (#74316) Journal

                  As I understand they are better at living on prairie type grasses and don't emit tons of methane. The few times I've eaten bison, I found it more similar to beef then anything and had no problem with the taste, I believe they were farm raised. Of course meat reflects the diet that grew the meat. I've had venison from sagebrush country and it was, well different.
                  There's also goats and even sheep as examples of more efficient producers of meat and pretty good producers of milk (perhaps healthier).
                  (funny enough playing on the radio is the blues song "goat meat ain't fit to eat")

                  • (Score: 2) by Hairyfeet on Wednesday July 30 2014, @12:14AM

                    by Hairyfeet (75) <reversethis-{moc ... {8691tsaebssab}> on Wednesday July 30 2014, @12:14AM (#75319) Journal

                    TYhe problem is their ultra low fat content makes them worthless for many dishes as you need a certain amount of fat to get things to mix correcty, also they are kinda "gamey" for want of a better term and while I personally like deer and gator there are many that just do not like the taste.

                    --
                    ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by dry on Thursday July 24 2014, @05:22AM

          by dry (223) on Thursday July 24 2014, @05:22AM (#73140) Journal

          The answer is in your comment, use the land for goats or sheep. The problem with cattle is that they use a lot of grain (including corn) to fatten up. It's rare to see grass fed beef for sale. Even goat milk is more digestible for many.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:38PM (#72832)

    I don't think you have to go to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle just in order to replace your beef with pork or chicken.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:03PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @05:03PM (#72842)

    Soylent!

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:38PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:38PM (#72892) Journal

    Other than buying more chicken, pork, turkey, etc., one potential alternative is "cultured meat". Aka the lab-grown burger.

    World's first lab-grown burger to be cooked and eaten [bbc.com]

    The biggest problem? No fat cells in version 1.0, so it didn't have that juicy burger taste.

    Heck No Or Let's Go? Your Thoughts On Lab-Grown Meat [npr.org]

    As for how the meat industry feels about this technology? Here's what Janet Riley, spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute, told us in an email:

    "Until researchers can show that it can be remotely cost effective, scalable and even tasty, it's not realistic," Riley wrote.

    She expressed doubt that consumers would go for the petri dish patty.

    "Trends show a new interest in how meat is produced and a growing desire among many consumers for local and natural products," she wrote. "A laboratory grown meat product derived from stem cells is unlikely to satisfy the trends currently at play."

    But Riley also didn't rule out the meat industry's interest in the technology: "we are in the business of providing choices, and if this process becomes a viable option, we welcome it as just another option in our abundant meat case."

    Environmentalists, too, are skeptical that in vitro beef will alleviate the strain on resources given that much of the growing demand for meat in developing countries is for pork. Janet Larsen, director of research for the Earth Policy Institute, says that as for Americans, we are already learning that meat doesn't need to be on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner: "It's far simpler to accelerate the reduction we're already seeing in meat consumption [than wait for lab-grown beef]."

    Wikipedia: In vitro meat [wikipedia.org]

    Research has shown that environmental impacts of cultured meat are significantly lower than normally slaughtered beef. For every acre that is used for vertical farming and/or in vitro meat manufacturing, anywhere between 10 acres (4.0 ha) to 20 acres (8.1 ha) of land may be converted from conventional agriculture usage back into its natural state. Vertical farms (in addition to in vitro meat facilities) could exploit methane digesters to generate a small portion of its own electrical needs. Methane digesters could be built on site to transform the organic waste generated at the facility into biogas which is generally composed of 65% methane along with other gasses.

    A study by researchers at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam found that in vitro meat was "potentially ... much more efficient and environmentally-friendly", generating only 4% greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the energy needs of meat generation by up to 45%, and requiring only 2% of the land that the global meat/livestock industry does. The patent holder Willem van Eelen, the journalist Brendan I. Koerner, and Hanna Tuomisto, a PhD student from Oxford University all believe it has less environmental impact. This is in contrast to cattle farming, "responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases" and causing more damage to the environment than the combined effects of the world's transportation system. Vertical farming may completely eliminate the need to create extra farmland in rural areas along with in vitro meat. Their combined role may create a sustainable solution for a cleaner environment.

    One skeptic is Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who speculates that the energy and fossil fuel requirements of large scale in vitro meat production may be more environmentally destructive than producing food off the land. However, it has been indicated that both vertical farming in urban areas and the activity of in vitro meat facilities will cause very little harm to the species of wildlife that live around the facilities. Many natural resources will be spared from depletion due to the conservation efforts made by both vertical farming and in vitro meat; making them ideal technologies for an overpopulated world. Conventional farming, on the other hand, kills ten wildlife animals per hectacre each year. Converting ten acres of farmland from its man-made condition back into either pristine wilderness or grasslands would save approximately 40 animals while converting two acres of that same farmland back into the state it was in prior to settlement by human beings would save approximately 80 animals.

    ...

    Animal welfare groups are generally in favor of the production of in vitro meat because it does not have a nervous system and therefore cannot feel pain. Reactions of vegetarians to in vitro meat vary, some feel the in vitro meat presented to the public in August 2013 was not vegetarian as foetal calf serum was used in the growth medium.

    Maastricht University: Cultured Beef [culturedbeef.net]
    Burger tasting London Aug 2013 [youtube.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:56PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:56PM (#72906)

      Right now, manufactured meat is as real as a flying car.

      It has not been shown to be up to quality, and the approaches used to get it there tend to be expensive and hard to scale.

      It is quite distinguishable from live grown meat, which is why they're working in terms of nuggets and hamburger.

      The capital investment and running costs currently are far higher than any regular ranch.

      All of these problems need to be meaningfully solved before it turns commercially viable. Are there approaches to solutions? Yes. Are there commercially viable solutions? No. Not yet.

      As for vertical farming, that can only work as much as your sunlight will penetrate. It's no accident that gardeners worry about the sunlight needs and shade tolerance of plants. There's only so much insolation you get. What's worse, if you pack your vertical farms close together they shade each other when the sun is low in the sky, instead of just shading their own lower layers.

      Real, practical vertical farms are best approximated with some of the permaculture approaches, and even then your ground cover is impoverished compared to what you would get in an open field. The benefit is that with multiple crops over a single acre you get better net yields even though each individual yield is lower.

      All these people are spinning their wheels desperately searching for free lunches.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by c0lo on Wednesday July 23 2014, @10:12PM

    by c0lo (156) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @10:12PM (#73002) Journal

    We're certainly not going back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, are we?

    No, we could breed elephants. Or giant slugs.

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0