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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: 4, Interesting) by carguy on Wednesday July 23 2014, @08:51PM

    by carguy (568) on Wednesday July 23 2014, @08:51PM (#72976)

    Third, never mind soil fertility (hah!) but let's consider just the brute work behind getting a crop in. Today, we use tractors. If oil prices keep going the way they're going, tomorrow we may well be using horses and oxen.

    Visiting relatives in central Wisconsin this week. Lots of big dairy operations here and many of them also grow soy beans for cow feed. But, the soy oil isn't really good for the cows, so they press the beans and use the soy oil in the tractors. The soy oil can be converted to biodiesel, but it is even easier to simply mix with 50% diesel (when it is warm enough--the soy oil congeals in cold weather).

    Bonus is the pressed beans are better for the cows. On a big operation, at current fuel prices, I understand the payback for the press (runs off tractor pto) can be a couple of years, but don't quote me on that.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @09:53PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @09:53PM (#72993)

    I believe it. As a way of stretching your diesel dollar on what would otherwise probably be a waste product (unless you wanted to jump through FDA hoops to sell it as cooking oil) it's not a bad idea, just like power generation from methane off cow manure.

    However, that doesn't make it a viable, net positive fuel source without the addition of petrochemical sources. It's more like energy recycling than energy generation.