Found on a cornucopia of menus, present at barbeques and at our favorite restaurants, burgers, chili, kabobs and meatloaf are just some of the hardy beef entrees that are staples of the American diet.
Some care about their caloric intake associated with eating these beef products — but what is not on the nutrition label are the environmental impacts these recipes call for.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, beef accounts for only 28 percent of meat consumption, but is responsible for 78 percent of methane emissions, which contribute to the greenhouse effect. On average, more than 20 percent of meat’s greenhouse gas contribution comes from uneaten meat.
Cattle are also inefficient converters of plants into protein; this means their environmental footprint is bigger than other meats like fish and poultry. According to the Environmental Working Group, beef has twice the greenhouse gas emissions compared to pork, four times more than chicken and 13 times as much as vegetable proteins.
The greenhouse gases have a huge impact on the environment. Some effects of global warming include rising sea level, extreme weather events, melting polar ice caps, habitat loss, animal extinction — and the list goes on. The process begins with our own planet’s atmosphere: a blanket of gases that shields us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The atmosphere allows light from the sun to pass through and reach the surface of earth to warm our planet, which is essential to life. Due to the excessive presence of water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and methane gasses in the atmosphere, not all the heat from Earth’s surface can escape resulting in temperature rise, commonly called global warming.
A bigger issue that we can actually control is the accumulation of these gasses in our atmosphere, specifically by changing our eating habits. Starting with beef.
People should monitor their beef intake and eat less. Choose pasture-raised cattle, which have fewer antibiotics, hormones and are treated more humanely. Avoid processed beef products as much as possible. Buy the right size portion for your meal.
“People that want to cut down on meat should take it step-by-step. Do not try to do it cold turkey. It is a gradual process that the body and mostly the mind needs to adjust to,” vegetarian and psychology major Morgan Briana Shingle said.
By all means eat that Double-Double with extra spread on top, but just keep in mind how much of an impact those two patties are making on your environment.