cattle in a grassy field

Changing our diets can help not only our waistlines but the environment as well.

Environmental Costs of Raising Livestock for Food

Raising livestock for human consumption is incredibly resource-intensive — whether it’s dairy cows for milk or chickens for chicken nuggets. In fact, in just the United States, more than 10 billion animals are slaughtered for food each year. Stop for a moment and think about the water, food, and land required to raise a population of 10 billion. Now, compare what perceptions you may have with these statistics from Earthday Network.

  • Food: Livestock consumes over half of the grains grown in the U.S. That quantity adds up to approximately 323 million tons (or the weight of about 81 million hippos).
  • Land: Livestock uses a third of U.S. acreage, which includes the land required to grow enough food and the land for grazing. This land totals over 740 million acres (or the area of 560 million football fields).
  • Water: It takes 43 times more water to produce 1 kg of beef compared to 1 kg of grain. It’s safe to say the cows need a lot mooooooooore water than the U.S. can realistically provide long-term — especially given the growing number of water shortages in the southern and western areas of the country.
  • Fossil fuels: The amount of fossil fuel consumed to grow livestock feed and to raise these animals for slaughter is enough to emit 90 million tons of CO2 worldwide.

Give Peas a Chance

Movements such as Meatless Monday have sprung up in an effort to reduce human consumption of meat and other animal products. This specific movement encourages individuals to abstain from meat at least once a week. Doing so lessens the burden on natural resources to support livestock populations. Eating less meat also reduces your diet’s carbon impact.

The documentary Forks Over Knives, chock full of great facts and studies, is a great resource on the subject. The website also includes a variety of plant-based recipes and tools to help you reduce your meat consumption.

Feature image courtesy of Carol Von Canon

By Tori Wilson

Victoria (Tori) Wilson currently works at her home state's EPA. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Environmental Engineering. Tori’s favorite activities include volleyball, 3D puzzles, reading, journaling, trying out new plant based whole food dish ideas, coloring, watching comedy or action movies, and hiking. She just welcomed a new puppy into her life as well!