Look, I will admit to being a big fan of cheeseburgers. And I will also somewhat overweight and I could stand to be healthier. AND I also live in a country that seems to be happy to merrily rocket our environment straight to hell.
Well, what if there was an easy fix? What if we switch our beef - and hear me out - what if we switched our beef for beans? They're healthier, they have a far higher nutritional value, and farts are funny.
James Hamblin over at the Atlantic wrote an article about the ecological effects of our beef industry. Cattle ranches produce higher amounts of methane, which is more dangerous than carbon monoxide, and the amount of soybeans required to feed the cattle requires large scale deforestation to grow. We switch out to a more sustainable diet, we can make a significant contributions to our environment.
According to the article.
To understand why the climate impact of beef alone is so large, note that the image at the top of this story is a sea of soybeans in a silo in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The beans belong to a feed lot that holds 38,000 cattle, the growth and fattening of which means dispensing 900 metric tons of feed every day. Which is to say that these beans will be eaten by cows, and the cows will convert the beans to meat, and the humans will eat the meat. In the process, the cows will emit much greenhouse gas, and they will consume far more calories in beans than they will yield in meat, meaning far more clearcutting of forests to farm cattle feed than would be necessary if the beans above were simply eaten by people.
This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.
The author of the original article, James Hamblin, even did a fun little cartoon video, which you can check out below. While you're doing that, I'm going to start buying some frozen bean patties.