Surprise! Yet Another Report Shows that Eating Meat Contributes to Global Warming

by , 07/25/11

The Meat Eater's Guide to Climate and Health, environmental working group, ewg meat eating guide, ewg meat eating study, meat and climate change, meat and global warming

In news that will come as no surprise to the green-minded, a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that eating meat significantly contributes to global warming. Now, you may be thinking “duh, we’ve been saying that for years,” but do you know exactly how many carbon emissions come from a hamburger? Or how many extra miles you just drove because you ate some cheese? The report is part of EWG’s groundbreaking new guide, “The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health” which breaks down every step of the process, from production to waste disposal, to allow experts and consumers easily understand the impact of their meat-eating decisions. That hamburger, by the way, is the equivalent of driving 10 extra miles.

The Meat Eater's Guide to Climate and Health, environmental working group, ewg meat eating guide, ewg meat eating study, meat and climate change, meat and global warming

The report shows that if every American went meat and cheese free for just one day a week for a year, the reduction of carbon emissions would be the same as taking 7.6 million cars off the road. Taking into consideration every stage of food production, processing, consumption and waste disposal, the EWG calculated the “cradle to grave” effect on the climate for 20 different types of proteins, including meat, cheese, seafood, beans, nuts and lentils. Using data from the Department of Agriculture, the EWG accounted for everything from the fertilizers, pesticides and water used to grow the crops that feed the livestock to how the product is processed, transported and cooked.

The top three with the highest emissions are lamb, beef, and cheese — in that order. Yes, cheese has the third highest amount of emissions, clocking in at 13.5kg of carbon per 1kg of consumed food. Lamb has a whopping 39.2kg of carbon and beef comes out to be about 27kg. Beef generates more than twice the emissions of pork, four times that of chicken, and more than 13 times that of vegetable proteins. Also, more than 90 percent of beef’s emissions come from its production.

The report highlights several ways to curb emissions from meat eating. It’s not reasonable to expect every American to become a vegetarian, much less vegan, and that’s not what the EWG is trying to say with this study. Instead, the EWG emphasizes small, individual actions. For example, you should buy only what you are going to eat. About 20 percent of emissions associated with meat and dairy comes from discarded food.

“That number represents complete waste, energy we’re pumping into food production which just ends up being thrown away,” Kari Hamerschlag, a senior analyst at the EWG and the author of the report, told the New York Times. “You can make a big impact by only buying what you’re actually going to eat.”

Along with forgoing meat and cheese one day a week, the report encourages choosing sustainable options like organic and pasture-raised. For the full report, as well as a slew of interactive features, visit the guide’s website. You’ll find interactive graphics, printable guides, shopping tips, food label guides, and a quiz to see just how much your meat eating impacts the environment.

+ The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate and Health

Via The New York Times

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  1. TaVe December 11, 2011 at 1:02 am

    I agree with Torrence. Although this is very baised and has outright lies:

    Humans are closer to herbivore than carnivore. There is a reason why the excessive meat in some western diets leaders to heart disease, diabetes, strokes, some cancers, etc.

    Some estimate that livestock is responsible for over 50% of GWGs ( – although I don’t understand why they included breathing, since the CO2 comes from plants, which are a sink. But it seems they underestimated the number of animals, so that would be +5% based on their behind-the-scenes calculations. So about 42% based on their numbers + my criticisms.) These are based on 2009.

    weekday veg-

    other video-

  2. Torrence July 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Where do you come up with the idea that the human digestion is optimized for meat?? I’ve never heard anything that remotely supports that claim.

  3. GreenAfrican July 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

    This article should be retitled to…Eating meat in the West contributes to… Most of the African continent and a sizable percentage of Asian countries don’t have the sadistic practice of factory farms. The West causes everything and then tries to share the burden of the blame with the entire world. The sooner we target the problem countries and the sooner we can deal with this global crisis.

    @ Caeman
    Human digestion is optimized for meat? really? is that why you boil your meat for hours and rub all types of spices on it just so your stomach can be able to digest it? talk about being optimized for meat. If you buy American factory meat, you are contributing to global warming, it’s as simple as that. You can’t call yourself an environmentalist or someone who cares about the environment when you eat factory meat; that’s just not possible my friend. You want to enjoy your meat while protecting the environment? then buy local. Buy from the farmers who actually know ( and implement) the true definition of free range. Buy from farmers who feed their cows grass not processed corn. Buy from the little guy who cares for his animals and the environment.

    Actually, a cheaper meat alternative for you would be dogs. Animal shelters euthanized over 2 million dogs annually and rumors say, they taste like chicken. For some reason, I doubt you are running to your nearest animal shelter to put an order for dog meat tonight. Why? because you – like the rest of the world – has been brainwashed into believing that dogs are man’s best friend and they are smart and intelligent and above those other animals we eat for lunch everyday. Well, that piece of bacon is lot smarter than your much cherished dog. So why would you eat a pig and not a dog? ask yourself that question when you go to be at night.


  4. saadchughtai July 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

    @Caeman: Actually, the human digestion isn’t optimised for meat, almost the opposite (if you consider vegetable the opposite of meat…which is quite strange if you think about it).

    No one’s forbidding you from eating meat, just keep that chart in your head when you hit the shops next time. Consider varying your diet a little bit, try eating LESS meat. Try meat every other day, or later on meat after every 2 days.

    You might find it’ll do you (and your wallet) a world of good.

  5. caeman July 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

    No thank you. Not giving up meat, not even for one day. The human digestion is optimized for meat, not veggies. Now, if you like, I would be willing to shift to different meat. I imagine a rabbit and squirrel farm might be “greener”. Duck, quail, pheasant and other game birds, so yummy.

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