Is Eating Beef Bad for the Environment?

(Spoiler alert: beef is bad news for our planet)

beef meal

Beef eaters! Are you harming the environment?

Read the following out loud:

  1. chilli con carne
  2. beef stroganoff
  3. sirloin steak
  4. cottage pie.

Are you drooling like a dog ?


Ah, maybe there is still hope for you ?

You just need to reduce your beef consumption. Because beef really is bad for the environment. And here’s why:

Cattle farming causes:

  • Major contributons to greenhouse gases
  • Deforestation
  • Reduction in biodiversity
  • Extinction of species
  • Water pollution
  • Widespread use of GMO’s

It's all about the methane

dairy cows


Well, mainly methane and nitrous oxides. All livestock rearing produces some greenhouse emissions, but cows are by far the worst culprits.

The  Conversation says: Around 1.6-2.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, mostly methane, are produced from livestock digestion. Another 1.3-2.0 billion tonnes of nitrous oxide come from producing feed for livestock. And the final 1.6 billion tonnes comes from land use changes, such as clearing for animal pastures.

Are these figures accurate? To be honest, estimations vary, depending on the source. There are many factors to take into account – from how the cows are raised, and where, to the type and breed

(Did you know there are scientific studies in place to manipulate the breeding and dietary factors of cattle to try to reduce methane emissions?)

All we know for sure, is that beef farming is a major source of Amazon forest destruction and environmental pollution which is wholely preventable. Our obsession with beef is a major player in our destruction of our natural habitat.

Can't see the Woods for the Trees?

forest waterfall
Rainforest destruction continues to increase


Beef is a big factor in the destruction of the Earth’s most stunning habitats. 3769 square miles of beautiful Amazon Rainforest was destroyed through the year ending July 2019.  And it does not look like 2020 will prove kinder.

A great deal is cleared for cattle ranches and for growing their feed. Clearing of land has also caused devastating fires.

Clearing and burning of land releases billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And destroys the trees which absorb it.

Is there anything mankind won’t destroy for profit?

Save the tamarin

tamarin monkey
Endangered cotton-top tamarin

It’s not just the Amazon Rainforest being razed for beef. Other important habitats such as the Chinese forests are also being devastated. Consequently, species are dying out at an alarming rate and deserve our protection.

The WWF describes in Appetite For Destruction the quest to destroy more and more virgin land.

As arable land in China and the US becomes
scarce and the demand for meat products
fed on crops grows, so will the pressure to
expand production into new areas – from
the rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo
Basin, to the savannahs and woodlands of
eastern and southern Africa, to the Yangtze,
Mekong and Ganges river basins. This
threatens ecosystems that provide habitats
for countless wild species and support the
livelihoods of millions of people

We have already lost 60% of our animal populations since 1970

Water water everywhere

It takes 15,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef

Nearly a third of fresh water use goes towards producing animal products. The Gobal Footprint calculate it takes over 15,000 litres of water to produce just one kilogram of beef.

Vegans have good reason to claim growing human food instead of stock crops is a better way to feed the world and protect the environment

The GMO controversy

Stop GMO
Don't get me started here


Millions of acres across America are commandeered for growing cattle feed. The vast majority of corn and soybeans grown in the USA are now genetically modified. We cover the use of GMOs and the impact they have on the environment in another article.

Organic beef is one option to avoid GMO’s. Also, pesticides, growth hormones, routine pharmaceuticals and so on. UK Standards currently forbid organic labelling of food unless endorsed by a recognised certification body.

Will eating less beef really make a difference?

All meat damages the environment to some extent, but beef is particularly bad for the environment.

So just reducing your cow intake is a strong first step.

While less red meat is better for you, occasional organic beef has less impact on the environment, is raised under the highest animal welfare conditions and is fairly chemical free.

Veggie meat alternatives have also come a long way since those weird nut roasts. Some are based on mushrooms and pea flour and are available in mainstream supermarkets. They look like meat, taste like meat, smell like meat.

And I have fooled more than one carnivore into thinking they were enjoying my chilli with real dead cow.

Honestly guys, if you can’t taste the difference, is it really worth it?

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