We raise and consume lots of animals in the United States. The heavily animal product based Standard American Diet wreaks havoc on the environment. This image shows the numbers of livestock produced and slaughtered in the US for food/ year.
The environmental impact of the consumption of animals and their by-products is profound. Raising and slaughtering animals for the cattle, poultry, fish, dairy and egg industry contributes to environmental degradation in all four of these ways.
To learn more about this, I recommend watching the documentary Cowpsiracy. One of the best things we can do to benefit the environment is to stop consuming animal derived foods. This will have at least as much impact as using energy efficient light bulbs, riding bicycles to work, putting solar panels on our roofs, driving hybrid or electric cars, taking shorter showers or turning down the heat in our houses. The World Bank published a report stating that raising animals for food is responsible for up to 50% of global warming. What accounts for this energy intensive industry?
According to the UN, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions (in the form of carbon dioxide) than all transportation vehicles combined. Our carbon footprints would be lighter as vegan tractor trailer truck drivers than as Prius drivers consuming the Standard American Diet.
Furthermore, when humans use the toilet, the waste is treated in sanitation plants. Animal waste is not. Animals are given hormones and antibiotics some of which pass through the animal and subsequently pollute our groundwater and streams. Additionally, as the following picture depicting the dead zone on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico indicates, pesticides and fertilizers that are used to grow hay and corn to feed cows, pigs and chickens seep into our groundwater and run off into our rivers, streams and then coastal waters.
Large quantities of fertilizer (that were used to grow feed for the livestock industry) stimulate higher than normal algal production on the surface of coastal water. This leads to reduced oxygen levels in the water. Marine life can’t live in a reduced oxygen environment. It dies off or must move somewhere else. So, the consumption of land animals hurts sea life as well.
Livestock production is extremely water intensive. Cows eat a lot! It takes a lot of water to grow the food they eat. Professor Pimentel of Cornell University estimates that one pound of processed beef requires 5000 gallons of water to produce, due to the hay and corn the cow consumes. In contrast 250 gallons of water are required to produce a loaf of bread.
Short showers? Turning off tap while brushing teeth and hands? Washing only full loads of clothes or dishes? Certainly, moderating our water usage helps and is highly advised. An even more effective conservation tip? A soil and water specialist from the University of California Agricultural Extension claims one could save more water by not eating a pound of beef than by not showering for an entire year!
Finally, the United States’ animal food agricultural production has expanded into Latin America to meet our demand. The Amazon’s forests are converted into pastures and feed crops in order to raise the animals. 70 percent of the Amazon’s forests have been converted for this purpose. It takes a lot of land to raise cattle. Consider that approximately 55 square feet of forest is destroyed to produce enough cow flesh for one single hamburger.
Thanks for visiting!
With warmest wishes xoxo,
© 2015 Beantown Kitchen- Reprint only by permission of the author