Quantcast

Which Is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars?

Climate

By Jordyn Cormier

Cars are often used as the golden standard of environmental destruction. We know that our driving is hurtful to the environment. But, what about a burger? We don't instinctually associate meat consumption with climate change, but does the dark side of the meat industry give cars a run for their money? Which is actually worse—cows or cars?

Livestock emissions make up anywhere between 14.5 and 18 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Comparably, the transportation sector is responsible for around 14 percent of emissions. By those numbers alone, our current system of meat production is extremely damaging. Perhaps more looming, however, is that while transportation creates CO2, livestock farming is hugely responsible for producing methane. As you may know, methane is 23 times more potent when it comes to warming the planet.

Yes, driving cars is no good, but meat production is unexpectedly worse for the environment. Besides all of the fertilizer and cow waste products that release methane, meat unfortunately has to be transported in refrigerated trucks from feedlots to slaughterhouses to processing centers to your local grocery store. In this way, factory farming combines all of the harmful effects of driving an 18 wheeler, plus some.

The issue is that meat does not appear as harmful upon cursory glance. You can see emissions coming out of your old car and seeping into the atmosphere. You can't see emissions coming out of your hamburger. (Although, if you could see cow farts, that'd be a different story, as they shouldn't be underestimated in their profound environmental impact. Buying grass-fed beef reduces entropic emissions (methane gas flatulence) in cows simply because their stomachs are designed to digest grass, not grains. So, small changes do make a difference).

If everyone enjoyed one meatless day a week—a simple and easily accomplished request, livestock emissions could be greatly reduced. Unfortunately, a rise in sustainable farming, while more humane and necessary, will not greatly alter the skyrocketing emissions caused by livestock. This is especially true since meat consumption is growing across the globe and projected to increase by around 70 percent by 2050. The only way to clean up our act is to change how we produce, consume and think about meat. We need to become less mat-centric as a whole.

Eating less meat is much more easily accomplished than converting our entire country's infrastructure to run off of renewable energy—although we still need to be moving in that direction. We can start eating less meat immediately. Consuming less meat is also one of the few tactics for reducing greenhouse emissions that actually costs the consumer less money. Private solar panels cost money. New, fuel efficient vehicles cost money. Eating less meat means you're potentially saving a little bit of money. It's something that we can all do.

Clearly, what we need is a shift in mindset. Meat consumption is deeply rooted and deeply held in many cultures, but it has become a dangerous obsession. It's like we are all sitting in a room steadily filling with smoke. It's clear that something is on fire, but no one else is doing anything, so we sit tight. But, if you were in that room alone and it started flooding with smoke, wouldn't you do something? Stop waiting for others to act. Make changes in your life to help the planet and others are sure to follow.

I don't believe that humans will ever stop eating meat. But, it should be a priority to practice moderation with our meat consumption, if not for our collective health, then for the planet's.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Eduardo Velev cools off in the spray of a fire hydrant during a heatwave on July 1, 2018 in Philadelphia. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

By Adrienne L. Hollis

Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.

Read More Show Less
Senator Graham returns after playing a round of golf with Trump on Oct. 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ron Sachs – Pool / Getty Images

Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
A small Bermuda cedar tree sits atop a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. todaycouldbe / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Marlene Cimons

Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.

Read More Show Less
krisanapong detraphiphat / Moment / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The compound of German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer in Berlin. ODD ANDERSEN / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria announced his ruling in San Francisco on Monday.

Read More Show Less
A Masai giraffe and sunset at Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Ayzenstayn / Moment / Getty Images

Another subspecies of giraffe is now officially endangered, conservation scientists announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Trump shakes hands with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt after announcing his decision for the U.S. to pull out of the Paris agreement on June 1, 2017. Win McNamee / Getty Images

President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated ethics rules when it replaced academic members of advisory boards with industry appointees, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported Monday.

Read More Show Less