Page Summary: Quotes & Links for 70+ Science News Reports Regards Meat & Dairy Consumption Causing a Large % of Climate Change via Greenhouse Gas Production (Carbon/Methane Footprints of Food); and How it Causes Mass Pollution, Depletes Soils & Wastes Large Amounts of Our Fresh Water, Edible Plant Crops, Fossil Fuels & Agricultural Land.
Related pages contain scores of science news reports regards animal agriculture and deforestation, biodiversity loss and the dying oceans.
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A 2014 report in the Climatic Change journal states: “dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans. It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.”
Regards specific results: “The age-and-sex-adjusted mean… GHG emissions in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day (kgCO2e/day) were”:
– 7.19 for high meat-eaters ( > = 100 g/d)
– 5.63 for medium meat-eaters (50-99 g/d)
– 4.67 for low meat-eaters ( < 50 g/d)
– 3.91 for fish-eaters
– 3.81 for vegetarians
– 2.89 for vegans.
Reference: “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK”, Climatic Change, July 2014, Volume 125, Issue 2, pp 179–192; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-014-1169-1
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From a BBC 2018 report titled “Climate change food calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint?” … Excerpts: “Avoiding meat and dairy products is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact, according to recent scientific studies … Food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, according to a University of Oxford study … Their findings showed that meat and other animal products are responsible for more than half of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, despite providing only a fifth of the calories we eat and drink.
Of all the products analysed in the study, beef and lamb were found to have by far the most damaging effect on the environment.
The findings echo recommendations on how individuals can lessen climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
When it comes to our diets, the IPCC says we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter – but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away …
Cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by two-thirds, according to the Oxford study, published in the journal Science.
“What we eat is one of the most powerful drivers behind most of the world’s major environmental issues, whether it’s climate change or biodiversity loss,” study researcher Joseph Poore told BBC News …
“It reduces the amount of land required to produce your food by about 75% – that’s a huge reduction, particularly if you scale that up globally,” Poore explained …
Even the most climate-friendly meat options still produce more greenhouse gases than vegetarian protein sources, like beans or nuts …”
Article at https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46459714
From the Abstract of the report in the journal Science: “Food’s environmental impacts are created by millions of diverse producers. To identify solutions that are effective under this heterogeneity, we consolidated data covering five environmental indicators; 38,700 farms; and 1600 processors, packaging types, and retailers. Impact can vary 50-fold among producers of the same product, creating substantial mitigation opportunities… Most strikingly, impacts of the lowest-impact animal products typically exceed those of vegetable substitutes, providing new evidence for the importance of dietary change…”
From page 16 of the PDF: “In particular, the impacts of animal products can markedly exceed those of vegetable substitutes (Fig. 1). To such a degree that meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use ~83% of the world’s farmland and contribute 56-58% of food’s different emissions, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories …
We find that the impacts of the lowest-impact animal products exceed average impacts of substitute vegetable proteins across GHG emissions, eutrophication, acidification (excluding nuts), and frequently land use (Fig. 1 and data S2).”
Reference: “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers”, Science 01 Jun 2018: Vol. 360, Issue 6392, pp. 987-992; http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987
To obtain the PDF of the full report:
From The Guardian news site, 2018: “Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth.”
Excerpts: “The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.
The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans.
The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.
The study, published in the journal Science, created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification).
“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems,” he said. “Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.”
The analysis also revealed a huge variability between different ways of producing the same food. For example, beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and use 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture. But the comparison of beef with plant protein such as peas is stark, with even the lowest impact beef responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land…”
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From a 2018 report in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Greenhouse gas emissions of equicaloric diets are 29% less in vegetarian diet in AHS-2 and 47–60% less for vegetarian/vegan diets in EPIC-Oxford than non-vegetarian/meat-eating diets. The beneficial health outcomes and reduced carbon footprints make the case for adoption of vegetarian diets to address global food supply and environmental sustainability.”
Reference: “Health and sustainability outcomes of vegetarian dietary patterns: a revisit of the EPIC-Oxford and the Adventist Health Study-2 cohorts”,
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2018), Oct 2; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-018-0310-z
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A 2016 article on the RMIT University website is titled “New study provides carbon footprint league table for food.” Excerpts: “Researchers have compiled the first comprehensive carbon footprint league table for fresh food so chefs, caterers and everyday foodies can cook meals without cooking the planet…
Grains, fruit and vegetables were found to have the lowest impact, followed by nuts and pulses. Chicken and pork (non-ruminant meat) had a medium impact. Fish also had a medium impact on average, however results between species varied significantly. Meat from beef and lamb (ruminant animals with multiple guts) had the highest impact...”
Article at http://www.rmit.edu.au/news/all-news/2016/november/new-study-provides-carbon-footprint-league-table-for-food
The study is titled “Systematic review of greenhouse gas emissions for different fresh food categories.” A summary excerpt: “The meta-analysis indicates a clear greenhouse gas hierarchy emerging across the food categories, with grains, fruit and vegetables having the lowest impact and meat from ruminants having the highest impact.”
Reference: Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 140, Part 2, 1 January 2017, Pages 766-783; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652616303584
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Is it 14.5% or 18% or 51%? … Those figures are often cited about what percentage of human-related greenhouse gas emissions are due to the livestock industry.
By way of explanation the following excerpt is from a 2017 titled “Grazed and Confused” care of the University of Oxford:
“Facts, fiction, films and framings: who’s who in the debate around livestock? The past decade has seen a proliferation of studies focusing on livestock and the sector’s environmental impacts: the most prominent being the FAO’s 2006 Livestock’s Long Shadow report. This estimated that livestock contribute to some (7.1 Gt CO2-eq) or 18% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and to many other environmental problems.
The subsequent 2013 revised version came to a similar estimate of the absolute impact but since other sources of emissions (industry, transport and so forth) had increased over that period, the overall anthropogenic emissions total – against which livestock emissions were compared – was also higher. This means that the proportional overall contribution of livestock fell to a slightly lower 14.5% …
Most NGOs base their advocacy on the FAO reports and on academic studies.
A few others have chosen to adopt more extreme positions, most strikingly the US based Worldwatch Institute, which in 2011 published a report claiming that
livestock generate as much as 51% of global GHGs. The science behind these claims has been comprehensively refuted – among other things because it counts livestock respiration as a source of CO2 – but the figure holds traction in some
quarters and the report inspired the very popular ‘Cowspiracy’ film, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.”
Source: Page 28 of “Grazed and Confused” 2017 report from the Food and Climate Research Network (FCRN) in PDF at
From a report in New Scientist October 2017: “Grass-fed Beef is Bad for the Planet and Causes Climate Change.”
Excerpts: “New calculations suggest cattle pastures contribute to climate change… The truth is, we cannot eat as much meat as we like and save the planet…
A key problem is that microorganisms in the guts of cattle emit millions of tonnes of methane every year. A typical cow releases 100 kilograms of methane a year and the world has about a billion of them. Since methane is a greenhouse gas, this exacerbates global warming.
Meanwhile, feeding the beasts destroys forests by taking land for pasture or to grow feed – and this deforestation also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions…
Doing the Sums… Garnett and her colleagues [at the University of Oxford’s Food Climate Research Network] calculated the flow of greenhouse gases into and out of pastures…
Her findings are published in a report, Grazed and Confused?*
The analysis is more comprehensive than past studies, says Tim Benton at the University of Leeds, UK. “It asks, if we are to eat meat, is there a better way to grow it? The answer is: not really.”…
Many cattle, especially in the tropics, graze on former forest land. In places such as the Brazilian Amazon, clearing trees for cattle causes massive greenhouse gas emissions…
Garnett’s conclusion is supported by a study** published on 29 September, which found that methane emissions from cattle are 11 per cent larger than older methods would suggest, and thus a bigger contributor to global warming…
“We need to reduce emissions from livestock,” says Benton. “That needs to come from dietary change.”
From article at https://www.newscientist.com/article/2149220-grass-fed-beef-is-bad-for-the-planet-and-causes-climate-change/
* The “Grazed and Confused” report can be obtained via the Food and Climate Research Network (FCRN) here: https://www.fcrn.org.uk/projects/grazed-and-confused
** From the journal of Carbon Balance and Management, 2017: “Using the new emissions factors, we estimate global livestock emissions of 119.1 ± 18.2 Tg methane in 2011; this quantity is 11% greater than that obtained using the IPCC 2006 emissions factors, encompassing an 8.4% increase in enteric fermentation methane, a 36.7% increase in manure management methane, and notable variability among regions and sources …
Our results suggest that livestock methane emissions, while not the dominant overall source of global methane emissions, may be a major contributor to the observed annual emissions increases over the 2000s to 2010s …”
Reference: “Revised methane emissions factors and spatially distributed annual carbon fluxes for global livestock”, Carbon Balance and Management, 2017 12:16; https://cbmjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13021-017-0084-y
A related 2017 article by Tara Garnett of Oxford University’s Food Climate Research Network “Why eating grass-fed beef isn’t going to help fight climate change” – some excerpts: “Most studies conclude that if you look at the amount of land used and greenhouse gas emissions produced per kilogram of meat, pasture-based cattle actually have a greater climate impact than animals fed grains and soy… grazing livestock – even in a best-case scenario – are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Good grazing management cannot offset its own emissions, let alone those arising from other systems of animal production…
Grazing ruminants have historically driven deforestation and the carbon dioxide emissions associated with it. But today, demand for soy and grains to feed pigs, poultry, and intensively reared cattle poses a new threat. This drives the conversion of grassland to grow such grains and the release of carbon stored in it…
Forests are still cut down while grasslands are being intensified to support more livestock farming… whatever the system and animal type, rising animal production and consumption is driving damaging changes in land use and associated release of greenhouse gases...
The more that demand for meat increases, the harder it will be to tackle our climatic and other environmental challenges.”
Full article at https://theconversation.com/why-eating-grass-fed-beef-isnt-going-to-help-fight-climate-change-84237 and also at http://www.fcrn.org.uk/fcrn-blogs/tara-garnett/blog-post-tara-garnett-why-eating-grass-fed-beef-isn%E2%80%99t-going-help-fight
“An international research collaboration has shed light on the impact that grass-fed animals have on climate change…. This report concludes that grass-fed livestock are not a climate solution. Grazing livestock are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Rising animal production and consumption, whatever the farming system and animal type, is causing damaging greenhouse gas release and contributing to changes in land use. Ultimately, if high consuming individuals and countries want to do something positive for the climate, maintaining their current consumption levels but simply switching to grass-fed beef is not a solution. Eating less meat, of all types, is.”
Regards “Grass-Fed versus Grain-Fed Systems” – “A recent review of a limited number of lifecycle assessments (LCAs) of cattle production strategies found an overall 28 percent lower global warming potential (GWP) from concentrated feed systems versus grass-based systems…
the FAO has concluded that mixed-farming systems for cattle production (including some crop or crop byproducts) have lower overall emissions per unit of product than entirely grassland-based systems globally…
plant-based proteins and vegetarian meat substitutes result in fewer GHGs than ruminant meat production…”
Source: “Climate Change & Food Systems: Assessing Impacts and Opportunities”, Meridian Institute, 2017, page 21; at http://www.merid.org/~/media/CCFS/CC-FS%20Final%20Report%20November%202017
A related 2017 report in The Guardian newspaper: “Goodbye – and good riddance – to livestock farming” at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/livestock-farming-artificial-meat-industry-animals
A related video presentation by A Well Fed World is on Facebook.
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From the UN-FAO (United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization) referring to the 2013 figures: “By the numbers: GHG emissions by livestock.
Total emissions from global livestock: 7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. This figure is in line FAO’s previous assessment, Livestock’s Long Shadow, published in 2006, although it is based on a much more detailed analysis and improved data sets. The two figures cannot be accurately compared, as reference periods and sources differ.
– Cattle (raised for both beef and milk, as well as for inedible outputs like manure and draft power) are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions.
– In terms of activities, feed production and processing (this includes land use change) and enteric fermentation from ruminants are the two main sources of emissions, representing 45 and 39 percent of total emissions, respectively. Manure storage and processing represent 10 percent. The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products.
– Cutting across all activities and all species, the consumption of fossil fuel along supply chains accounts for about 20 percent of the livestock sector’s emissions.
– On a commodity-basis, beef and cattle milk are responsible for the most emissions, respectively, contributing 41 percent and 20 percent of the sector’s overall GHG outputs. (This figure excludes emissions from cow manure and cattle used as draught power) …”
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From the UN-FAO in 2006: “When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.
And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.”
Source: “Livestock a major threat to environment” at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
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A 2018 article in Climate Policy journal reports: “Animal to plant-sourced protein shifts offer substantial potential for GHG emission reductions. Unabated, the livestock sector could take between 37% and 49% of the GHG budget allowable under the 2°C and 1.5°C targets, respectively, by 2030.”
Reference: “Including animal to plant protein shifts in climate change mitigation policy: a proposed three-step strategy”, Climate Policy journal, Nov 26, 2018; https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14693062.2018.1528965
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From a 2018 article on the World Economic Forum website: “The unbelievably simple way to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half … If we all swapped beef burgers and bacon sandwiches for vegetarian alternatives most of the week, we could cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than half.
So say the scientists behind a new study published in Nature, who predicted that in 2050, sticking to a plant-based diet, with just one portion of red meat a week, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 56% …”
From the report on the Nature journal website:
“Dietary changes towards healthier diets can reduce the environmental impacts of the food system when environmentally intensive foods, in particular animal products, are replaced by less intensive food types … We estimate that, compared with the baseline projection for 2050, dietary changes towards healthier diets could reduce GHG emissions and other environmental impacts by 29% and 5–9%, respectively, for the dietary-guidelines scenario, and by 56% and 6–22%, respectively, for the more plant-based diet scenario (Fig.2).”
Reference: “Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits”, Nature, volume 562, pages 519–525 (2018), https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0594-0 and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0594-0.epdf
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“Could we save the world if we all went vegan?” That’s the title of a 2018 article at
The Financial Times website. With reference to several studies it reports: “Nearly 80 per cent of the world’s farmland is dedicated to rearing animals … 40 per cent of energy from crops fit for human consumption went to farm animals … worldwide conversion to veganism would shrink the amount of farmland needed by 3.1 billion hectares, the size of the African continent. That land could store carbon instead, in trees for example … could also cut greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter … A vegan diet is probably the most powerful change you make as an individual to reduce your impact on the earth …”
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From the Environmental Science and Technology journal: “Livestock farming incurs large and varied environmental burdens, dominated by beef … Here we show that protein-equivalent plant based alternatives to the beef portion of the mean American diet are readily devisable… We then show that replacement diets require on average only 10% of land, 4% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 6% of reactive nitrogen (Nr) compared to what the replaced beef diet requires.
Applied to 320 million Americans, the beef-to-plant shift can save 91 million cropland acres (and 770 million rangeland acres), 278 million metric ton CO2e, and 3.7 million metric ton Nr annually. These nationwide savings are 27%, 4% and 32% of the respective national environmental burdens.”
Reference: “Environmentally Optimal, Nutritionally Aware Beef Replacement Plant-Based Diets”, Environmental Science and Technology 50(15), July 2016; at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305038169_Environmentally_Optimal_Nutritionally_Aware_Beef_Replacement_Plant-Based_Diets
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From a 2018 editorial in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet: “So what is a healthy amount of red or processed meat? It’s looking increasingly like the answer, for both the planet and the individual, is very little …
Meat production doesn’t just affect the ecosystem by production of gases, and studies now question the system of production’s direct effect on global freshwater use, change in land use, and ocean acidification. A recent paper in Science claims that even the lowest-impact meat causes “much more” environmental impact than the least sustainable forms of plant and vegetable production …
Another important addition to the conversation around meat is the PLoS One paper discussing health-related taxes for red meat. The paper offers up some compelling claims as justification, including the suggestion that the health-related costs directly attributable to the consumption of red and processed meat will be US$285 billion in 2020, or 0·3% of worldwide gross GDP. 4·4% of all deaths worldwide would be caused by red or processed meat …”
Reference: “We need to talk about meat”, Editorial, The Lancet, Vol.392, Issue 10161, P2237, November 24, 2018; https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32971-4/fulltext
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2018 news report titled “Meat and dairy companies to surpass oil industry as world’s biggest polluters, report finds.”
Excerpts: “There’s no other choice. Meat and dairy production in the countries where the top 35 companies dominate must be significantly reduced…
When taken together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are already responsible for more emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP…
the livestock sector could be responsible for 80 per cent of the allowable greenhouse gas budget by 2050…
China, the US, the EU, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand are collectively responsible for over 60 per cent of global meat and dairy emissions – about twice the rest of the world on a per capita basis…
A paper published in the journal Science in June found that if everyone stopped eating meat and dairy products, global farmland use could be reduced by three quarters…
“It’s time we realised over-consumption is directly linked to the subsidies we provide the industry to continue deforesting, depleting our natural resources and creating a major public health hazard through antibiotic overuse,” said Shefali Sharma, director of IATP…”
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From a 2015 news report via CNN: “Climate Change: Why Beef is the new SUV” – some excerpts: “The world is faced with the herculean task of trying to limit warming to 2 degrees C … the point at which climate change is expected to get especially dangerous, leading to mega-droughts, mass extinctions & a sea-level rise that could wipe low-lying countries off the map…
“Globally, 14.5% of all greenhouse gas pollution can be attributed to livestock, according to the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization… a huge chunk of the livestock industry’s role – 65% – comes from raising beef & dairy cattle… About 70% of this planet’s agricultural land is used for livestock production… In the Amazon, cattle production accounts for an estimated 50% to 80% of all deforestation… Beef is … a hopelessly selfish, American indulgence; a middle finger to the planet… Would you stop eating beef to save the planet?…”
Source: CNN, Sep 29, 2015 – http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/29/opinions/sutter-beef-suv-cliamte-two-degrees/
The CNN diagram refers to the report titled “Ruminants, Climate Change and Climate Policy”.
An excerpt: “Methane (CH 4) is the most abundant non-CO 2 greenhouse gas and because it has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime (~9years) than CO 2 it holds the potential for more rapid reductions in radiative forcing than would be possible by controlling emissions of CO 2 alone.
There are several important anthropogenic sources of CH 4 : ruminants, the fossil fuel industry, landfills, biomass burning and rice production (Fig.1c).
We focus on ruminants for four reasons. First, ruminant production is the largest source of anthropogenic CH 4 emissions (Fig.1c) and globally occupies more area than any other land use. Second, the relative neglect of this greenhouse gas source suggests that awareness of its importance is inappropriately low. Third, reductions in ruminant numbers and ruminant meat production would simultaneously benefit global food security, human health and environmental conservation.”
Reference: “Ruminants, Climate Change and Climate Policy”, Nature Climate Change 4(1):2-5, December 2013; available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259466565_COMMENTARY_Ruminants_climate_change_and_climate_policy
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From a 2017 article in the New York Times: “The impact of factory farms on climate change is also profound. These operations generate more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
Factoring in increases in world population, a 2014 study in the journal Climatic Change found that food-related greenhouse gas emissions may take up most of the world’s remaining carbon budget  – or the amount of greenhouse gases that can still be emitted and keep global temperatures in 2050 to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. Dietary changes that involve reduced meat and dairy consumption “are crucial for meeting” the 2050 temperature target “with high probability,” the study concluded.
Another 2014 study in Britain found that meat eaters were responsible for twice the greenhouse gas emissions of people on plant-based diets. And recent studies calculated that if health guidelines on meat consumption were followed worldwide, food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 29 percent  to 45 percent.  Of course, this would require major changes in food systems…”
 “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options”, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, UN), Rome, 2006, at http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm
 “The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets”, Journal of Climatic Change, May 2014, Volume 124, Issue 1–2, pp 79–91, at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-014-1104-5
 “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change”, PNAS, 2016 April, 113 (15) 4146-4151, at http://www.pnas.org/content/113/15/4146.full
 “Importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation”, Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 924–929 (2014), at https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2353
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2018 news report: “Thanks to red meat, 20 per cent of Americans make half their country’s food-related emissions.”
Excerpts: “The food eaten by people in the highest-emissions bracket produced almost eight times the emissions of people in the lowest category – the bottom 20 per cent… according to a study published today in Environmental Research Letters…
It is well established that red meat production is a high emission industry… There are a number of sources of greenhouse gases in the beef-production process…”
A quote from the study: “As has been observed previously, meats and dairy contribute the most to GHGE and energy demand of US diets.”
Reference: “Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use associated with production of individual self-selected US diets”, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 4; at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aab0ac/meta
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November 2017 – “The Industrial Livestock Industry is Creating a Climate Crisis – The top five mega-corporations responsible for factory-farmed meat and dairy are responsible for emitting more combined greenhouse gases (GHGs) than Exxon, or Shell, or BP. That is according to findings just released in a joint study undertaken by IATP and GRAIN… ” from article by IATP – The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy – at
“Three meat companies – JBS, Cargill and Tyson – emitted more greenhouse gases last year than all of France… the top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, Europe’s biggest climate polluter by far. If these companies were a country, they would be the world’s 7th largest greenhouse gas emitter. It’s now clear that that the world cannot avoid climate catastrophe without addressing the staggering emissions from the largest meat and dairy conglomerates…” from article at https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5825-big-meat-and-dairy-s-supersized-climate-footprint with related infographics.
Related report in The Guardian newspaper: “Big meat and big dairy’s climate emissions put Exxon Mobil to shame – It is time to stop the dairy and meat giants from destroying the climate… livestock production now contributes nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, even more than the transportation sector. If production continues to grow as projected by the FAO, emissions will escalate to the point where industrial meat and dairy production alone will undercut our ability to keep temperatures from rising to an apocalyptic scenario…”
Article at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/07/big-meat-big-dairy-carbon-emmissions-exxon-mobil
Related 2018 news report titled “The Giant Corporations Behind Your Burgers And Milk Have A Terrifying Climate Secret. Together, five companies have a climate footprint bigger than Exxon, Shell or BP, but we don’t talk about it.” At
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The Guardian 2018: “Why what we eat is crucial to the climate change question. Our food – from what we eat to how it is grown – accounts for more carbon emissions than transport and yet staple crops will be hit hard by global warming…
our food systems, as currently structured, are facing major challenges…
Meanwhile, the most immediate threat of climate change for most of the global population will be at the dinner table, as our ability to grow critical staple crops is being affected by the warming we’ve already experienced. Between 1980 and 2008, for instance, wheat yields dropped 5.5 % and maize yields fell 3.8% due to rising temperatures.
Climate change threatens the food security of millions of poor people around the world.
While farming alone accounts for 10-12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, when we look at entire food systems the contributions to climate change more than double.
A recent report published by the Meridian Institute lays out the many factors throughout food systems that spell trouble for the climate, and also explains why a broad systems-wide perspective is necessary for implementing effective changes.
Consider deforestation and soil. A narrow view of agriculture alone would neglect the fact that a full 80% of the forests that are clear cut or destroyed are done so to create farmland. Forests are massive carbon sinks. So is soil, locking away two to three times as much carbon as there is present in the atmosphere. But farmers can help restore ecosystem functions and build resilient communities by producing crops and livestock in productive ways that sequester carbon and protect forests.
Or consider food waste. Not just the scraps that you throw away, but throughout the entire food system. A staggering 30-40% of the food produced in the world is never eaten…
Young people are increasingly keen to protect the environment by shifting to animal-product-free diets…”
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Carbon Footprints: The Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Food Products – Meat and Dairy Produces Much Higher Amount of GHGs Compared to Plant Foods.
Below image adapted from diagrams in the article “Meat and Seafood Production & Consumption” by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) at https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consumption
Original data source: “Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice”, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 12, Number 6; at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6cd5/meta
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Endorsed by 15,000 scientists, a 2017 report is titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” – excerpt: “Examples of diverse and effective steps humanity can take to transition to sustainability include the following … promoting dietary shifts towards mostly plant-based foods…”
Reference: BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 12, 1 December 2017, Pages 1026–1028; https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article-abstract/67/12/1026/4605229 and PDF at http://scientists.forestry.oregonstate.edu/sites/sw/files/Ripple_et_al_warning_2017.pdf
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From the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a report titled: “Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems.”
Findings: “the ‘normal’ diet based on products from chemical–conventional agriculture and conventional farming (NORM-INT) turns out to have the greatest environmental impact, whereas the vegan diet based on organic products (VEGAN-BIO) turns out to have the smallest environmental impact …
If the impact of single foods is analysed, we see that:
1. Beef is the single food with the greatest impact on the environment …
2. The other high impacting foods are cheese, fish and milk …
a greater consumption of animal products translates to a greater impact on the environment …
chemical–conventional production methods have a greater environmental impact than organic methods.”
Reference: EJCN, vol 61, pages 279–286 (2007); https://www.nature.com/articles/1602522
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2018 report on The Guardian news site: “livestock production represents 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, [yet] almost 72% of companies provided little or no evidence to show that they were measuring or reporting their emissions. Some 19 companies received the lowest possible mark in this section, including Australia Agricultural Company, Cal-Maine (a US company…), Russian Cherkizovo and Indian Venky’s. This, the report argues, may be “putting the implementation of the Paris agreement in jeopardy”. The Guardian approached these companies for comment but received no response.
Studies over the last decade have repeatedly shown that the production of red meat is energy and water-intensive compared to the production of most grains and vegetables…
Antibiotic resistance has soared in recent decades and is now considered one of the biggest public health threats facing the world. The role of farming and food production in spreading resistant bacteria has come under increasing scrutiny…
Our research shows that three in four of these companies are ignoring the calls from regulators, health professionals and the financial community to manage and reduce their use of antibiotics. That failure puts both global public health and their business models at risk…”
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A July 2017 article in NYMag is titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak – sooner than you think…” at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html
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2018 report: “Rising global meat consumption ‘will devastate environment’”
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From a 2016 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) – from the Abstract:
“Transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce global mortality by 6–10% and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29–70% compared with a reference scenario in 2050 … we estimate the economic benefits of improving diets to be 1–31 trillion US dollars, which is equivalent to 0.4–13% of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2050…”
From the results section re: Emissions Impacts.
“In line with other studies we find that dietary changes toward less animal-sourced foods can help mitigate an expected growth in food-related GHG emissions … The two vegetarian diets resulted in food-related GHG emissions at midcentury … that were 45–55% lower than the 2005/2007 levels and 63–70% lower than REF [reference scenario] emissions …”
The highest benefits were associated with a completely plant-based (vegan) diet as compared to an omnivorous, a vegetarian & a reference scenario diet based on projections by the FAO of the United Nations.
Reference: “Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Cobenefits of Dietary Change”, PNAS, April 12, 2016 113 (15) 4146-4151; www.pnas.org/content/113/15/4146
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Regards Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions: “The livestock sector includes 20 billion animals using 30 percent of the planet’s land for grazing… Animal feed production accounts for about 45 percent of the livestock sector’s [GHG] emissions – about half from the fertilization of feed crops and pastures and the rest through energy use and land use…
Livestock alone may constitute up to half the mitigation potential of the AFOLU [agriculture, forestry, and other land use] sectors through a combination of management options and reduced demand for livestock products…
Methane from enteric fermentation, primarily from ruminants (e.g., cows, goats, sheep), is the most important source of emissions, followed by nitrous oxide from feed production and land use for animal feed and pastures, including land change and fertilizer production…
Cattle accounts for 64–78 percent of the sector’s emissions, followed by pigs, poultry, buffalo, and small ruminants. The sector, and therefore its impact on GHG emissions, is growing…”
Source: “Climate Change & Food Systems: Assessing Impacts and Opportunities”, Meridian Institute, 2017, page 19; at http://www.merid.org/~/media/CCFS/CC-FS%20Final%20Report%20November%202017
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From The Guardian newspaper 2010: “United Nations urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet … A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a United Nations report said today… Western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable… Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use…” Source: The Guardian newspaper, 2010; http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet
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A 2017 CBC article titled “Bad news: Eating local, organic won’t shrink your carbon footprint…”
Excerpt: “scientists have done the math on dietary changes that can make a difference… The study  found that organic and conventional agriculture “did not differ significantly in their greenhouse gas emissions.”…
Some of Clark’s other findings were:
– Grass-fed beef generates 19 per cent more emissions per kilogram than grain-fed beef, largely because grass is less nutritionally dense. Cattle need to eat more grass to get the same nutrition as they would from a smaller amount of grain, they grow more slowly, and must be raised for a longer time before slaughter, generating more emissions.
– Trawled fish, especially flat fish, such as sole and halibut, generate an average of 2.8 times more emissions than schooling fish caught with mid-water trawling, seine nets and lines such mackerel and cod…
Seth Wynes, a PhD student… did a similar analysis  … found that while buying local can have other benefits, such as supporting local communities and knowing where your food comes from, “in terms of your emissions, it’s just not a big deal.”
The difference is so small that by taking a short drive to pick up local food, you could end up generating more emissions than if you walked to the nearest store to grab something imported.
On the other hand, both Wynes and Clark found that switching to a plant-based diet could make a huge difference. Wynes found going from omnivore to vegetarian could reduce your personal carbon emissions by about 0.8 tonnes per year — a bigger difference than replacing your gasoline-powered car with a hybrid. Going from omnivore to vegan would reduce your emissions by 0.9 tonnes per year.
Over the entire population, that can add up…
In an earlier study using the same data set as his more recent study, he found that global emissions from food production will increase by 80 per cent by 2050, from 2.27 billion to 4.1 billion tonnes of carbon per year, if current dietary and income trends continue. If everyone switched to a vegetarian diet, they would instead decrease by 55 per cent to 1.02 billion tonnes of carbon per year…
He recommends starting by reducing the amount of beef, goat and lamb in your diet, as those by far generate the most emissions…”
Article at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/local-organic-carbon-footprint-1.4389910
 Link for the report by Michael Clark and David Tilman titled – “Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice”, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 12, Number 6; at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6cd5/meta
 From the 2017 report in science journal Environmental Research Letters, by Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas: “We recommend four widely applicable high-impact (i.e. low emissions) actions with the potential to contribute to systemic change and substantially reduce annual personal emissions…”
1. “having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year)”
2. “living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year)”
3. “avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and”
4. “eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year).”
Reference: “The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions”, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 12, Number 7, Published 12 July 2017; http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541/meta
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A 2018 report titled “Grass-fed Beef is Not Sustainable, New Research Confirms.”
Excerpts: “The report says: “In order to produce the same quantity of beef as the present-day system, we find that a nationwide shift to exclusively grass-fed beef would require increasing the national cattle herd from 77 to 100 million cattle, an increase of 30%. We also find that the current pastureland grass resource can support only 27% of the current beef supply (27 million cattle), an amount 30% smaller than prior estimates.” …
According to the researchers, if consumption of beef is not minimized and instead is “satisfied by greater imports of grass-fed beef” then a move to a purely grass-fed system would actually produce higher environmental costs, including an increase in methane emissions…
This study adds to a body of research suggesting that animal agriculture is destroying our planet…”
The report that article refers to …
From the journal Environmental Research Letters, 2018: “We model a nationwide transition from grain- to grass-finishing systems using demographics of present-day beef cattle. In order to produce the same quantity of beef as the present-day system, we find that a nationwide shift to exclusively grass-fed beef would require increasing the national cattle herd from 77 to 100 million cattle, an increase of 30%.
We also find that the current pastureland grass resource can support only 27% of the current beef supply (27 million cattle), an amount 30% smaller than prior estimates …
Future US demand in an entirely grass-and forage-raised beef scenario can only be met domestically if beef consumption is reduced, due to higher prices or other factors. If beef consumption is not reduced and is instead satisfied by greater imports of grass-fed beef, a switch to purely grass-fed systems would likely result in higher environmental costs, including higher overall methane emissions. Thus, only reductions in beef consumption can guarantee reductions in the environmental impact of US food systems.”
Reference: “Nationwide shift to grass-fed beef requires larger cattle population”,
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 8; at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aad401/meta and
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A 2002 article in The Guardian is titled “Earth ‘will expire by 2050′” an excerpt: “Our planet is running out of room and resources… A study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)… warns that the human race is plundering the planet at a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life… The report, based on scientific data from across the world, reveals that more than a third of the natural world has been destroyed by humans over the past three decades…” – https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/jul/07/research.waste
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2017 report in Scientific American: “Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues. Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said… The causes of soil destruction include chemical-heavy farming techniques, deforestation which increases erosion, and global warming…” at
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“Soil degradation includes erosion, desertification, and other changes in soil that reduce its capacity to provide ecosystem services.
During the past 40 years, nearly one-third of arable land is estimated to have been lost to erosion, 25 percent of the Earth’s land has been highly degraded or is undergoing degradation rapidly, and the proportion of land mass classified as dry has doubled.”
Source: “Climate Change & Food Systems: Assessing Impacts and Opportunities”, Meridian Institute, 2017, page 21; at http://www.merid.org/~/media/CCFS/CC-FS%20Final%20Report%20November%202017
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A 2009 article in the Independent newspaper is titled “Study claims meat creates half of all greenhouse gases.”
Excerpts: “Livestock causes far more climate damage than first thought, says a new report … In a paper published by a respected US thinktank, the Worldwatch Institute, two World Bank environmental advisers claim that instead of 18 per cent of global emissions being caused by meat, the true figure is 51 per cent.
They claim that United Nation’s figures have severely underestimated the greenhouse gases caused by tens of billions of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and other animals in three main areas: methane, land use and respiration.
Their findings… come amid increasing calls from climate change experts for people to eat less meat.
In the 19-page report, Robert Goodland, a former lead environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, a current adviser, suggest that domesticated animals cause 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), more than the combined impact of industry and energy…”
Source: The Independent newspaper, UK, 2009: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/study-claims-meat-creates-half-of-all-greenhouse-gases-1812909.html
Regards that 51% figure the report it is from is available at http://worldwatch.org/node/6294 – click on the link for “Livestock and Climate Change,” World Watch Magazine [FREE PDF]”
Excerpt from that page: “A widely cited 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Livestock’s Long Shadow, estimates that 18 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs, and poultry. But recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang finds that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.”
From a UNESCO report: “In November 2009, Goodland and Anhang of the World Bank, released a report in the periodical Worldwatch stating that the 2006 FAO report appears to have underestimated the worldwide total amount of GHG emissions attributable to livestock production. They calculated an additional 25,048 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents attributable to livestock undercounted or overlooked in the 2006 FAO calculations (7,516 million tons).
Based upon their new calculations, at least 32,562 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents or at least 51% of all GHG emissions are attributable to livestock production.
This value is a significant upward revision from FAO’s 2006 18% contribution calculation. This represents an enormous shift in perspective, and further strengthens the evidence for the relationship between meat production and effects on climate change.”
Source: “Energy Flow, Environment and Ethical Implications for Meat Production”, UNESCO, at http://www.eubios.info/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/ECCAPWG13.83161418.pdf
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A 2019 report in Forbes: “Meat And Agriculture Are Worse For The Climate Than Power Generation, Steven Chu Says” – the new president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1997 Nobel Prize winner in physics and former U.S. Secretary of Energy.
Excerpts: “The world has focused first on energy in its effort to stop greenhouse gas emissions, but former Energy Secretary Steven Chu puts agriculture at the top of his list of climate challenges—particularly animal agriculture.
The Nobel Prize winning physicist surveyed the world’s carbon-polluting industries in a lecture at the University of Chicago, and he started with meat and dairy.
“If cattle and dairy cows were a country, they would have more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire EU 28,” said Chu …
Chu lumped the greenhouse gas emissions from meat and dairy with other agricultural practices, such as fertilizer, and land-use changes, such as deforestation and soil disruption. He weighted the resulting greenhouse gases for lifetime and potency, showing that emissions from agriculture are a bigger problem than emissions from energy …
Chu is not the first to suggest that experts underestimate the climate impact of animal agriculture. Experts typically attribute about 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions to livestock, but the Worldwatch Institute audited that number in 2009 and found uncounted emissions that bring the livestock contribution to 51 percent …”
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This site contains pages with hundreds of science reports on the higher rates of disease & death associated with eating red meat, dairy, chicken/poultry, eggs, fish/seafood & of the lower rates associated with eating healthy plant-based diets high in fruits & vegetables & nuts.
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2017 report: “Many researchers have highlighted the need for changes to food consumption in order to achieve the required greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions… Our results demonstrate that substituting one food for another, beans for beef, could achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the US. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of US cropland (692,918 km2). While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the “beans for beef” scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.”
Reference: “Substituting beans for beef as a contribution toward US climate change targets”, Climatic Change, 11 May 2017; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-017-1969-1
A related 2017 report in The Atlantic: “If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef. With one dietary change, the U.S. could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals …
A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact—more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering …
If Americans traded their beef for beans, the researchers found, that would free up 42 percent of U.S. crop land …”
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In regards to land use, crops, animal feed and human sustainability – a 2018 report in Elementa Science journal states: “We quantify the extent to which reductions in the amount of human-edible crops fed to animals and, less importantly, reductions in waste, could increase food supply. The current production of crops is sufficient to provide enough food for the projected global population of 9.7 billion in 2050 …
Our analysis finds no nutritional case for feeding human-edible crops to animals, which reduces calorie and protein supplies. If society continues on a ‘business-as-usual’ dietary trajectory, a 119% increase in edible crops grown will be required by 2050.”
Reference: “Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation”, Elem Sci Anth, 2018, 6(1), p.52;
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Medical Journal of Australia, 2013: “Dietary choices influence not only health, but also greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with meals of similar energy content differing in their emissions by a factor of between two and nine. Regional differences need to be considered, but, in general, plant foods are associated with lower GHG emissions than is meat, especially from ruminant animals. This has led climate change experts to recommend a reduction in meat consumption, especially from methane-producing cattle and sheep. The recommendation to reduce meat consumption in the human diet dovetails with dietary guidelines for increased consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and wholegrain products, and with our knowledge about Mediterranean dietary patterns, whose health benefits are well documented.”
Reference: “A plant-based diet – good for us and for the planet”, Med J Aust 2013; 199 (4 Suppl): S11-S16; https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/4/plant-based-diet-good-us-and-planet
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A 2016 report from the World Resources Institute is titled “Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future.” The report “shows that for people who consume high amounts of meat and dairy, shifting to diets with a greater share of plant-based foods could significantly reduce agriculture’s pressure on the environment. It introduces a protein scorecard ranking foods from lowest (plant-based foods) to highest impact (beef), as well as the Shift Wheel, which harnesses proven marketing and behavior change strategies to help move billions of people to more sustainable diets.”
The PDF report is at
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From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 2018 report on the food loss inherent to animal agriculture systems – summary excerpt: “With a third of all food production lost via leaky supply chains or spoilage, food loss is a key contributor to global food insecurity. Demand for resource-intensive animal-based food further limits food availability.
In this paper, we show that plant-based replacements for each of the major animal categories in the United States (beef, pork, dairy, poultry, and eggs) can produce twofold to 20-fold more nutritionally similar food per unit cropland.
Replacing all animal-based items with plant-based replacement diets can add enough food to feed 350 million additional people, more than the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food loss…
the opportunity food losses of beef, pork, dairy, poultry, and eggs are 96%, 90%, 75%, 50%, and 40%, respectively.”
Reference: “The opportunity cost of animal based diets exceeds all food losses”, PNAS March 26, 2018, 201713820; http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/03/20/1713820115
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A 2003 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is titled “Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment.” The conclusion states: “Both the meat-based average American diet and the lacto-ovo-vegetarian (dairy and poultry/eggs) diet… are not sustainable in the long term based on heavy fossil energy requirements.
“The major threat to future survival and to U.S. natural resources is rapid population growth …
The average fossil energy input for all the animal protein production systems studied… is more than 11 times greater than that for grain protein production…
Producing 1 kg of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing 1 kg of grain protein…
On rangeland for forage production, more than 200,000 liters of water are needed to produce 1 kg of beef…
Producing 1 kg of fresh beef may require about 13 kg of grain and 30 kg of hay…
The amount of grains fed to US livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet [that’s 2.6 times present population]…
In the United States, more than 9 billion livestock are maintained to supply the animal protein consumed each year…
The US livestock population consumes more than 7 times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population…
Each American consumes about twice the RDA for protein. Americans on average are eating too much protein and are consuming about 1000 kcal in excess per day per capita…”
Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 78, No. 3, 660S-663S, September 2003; http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/660S.full
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A 2015 article on the Lewis & Clark Law School site is titled “A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry That Is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on It” – The introduction: “Climate change. Ocean dead zones. Fisheries depletion. Species extinction. Deforestation. World hunger. Food safety. Heart disease. Obesity. Diabetes. The list goes on. There is one issue at the heart of all these global problems that is too often overlooked by private individuals and policy makers alike – our demand for and reliance on animal products. We can take a substantial step towards addressing all these problems simultaneously through reducing or eliminating our reliance on meat and dairy products…”
Article at http://elawreview.org/environmental-law-review-syndicate/a-leading-cause-of-everything-one-industry-that-is-destroying-our-planet-and-our-ability-to-thrive-on-it/
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From a 2019 report regards the dairy industry and climate change: “According to Inside Climate News, the conventional dairy industry is responsible for four percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in the form of methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas. Every gallon of cow’s milk consumed in the United States results in greenhouse gases equivalent to 17.6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. “Plant-based milks require less land and water, and contribute far less to climate change than cow’s milk,” Manu says. Not to mention the fact that surplus milk is currently being made into cheese faster than consumers can eat it …”
Source: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Milk” at
with reference to this 2017 report at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22052017/factory-farms-cafos-threaten-climate-change-world-heath-organization
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2018 report: “Our growing taste for shrimp is bad news for climate change.” Excerpts: “The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by fishing vessels rose 28% from 1990 to 2011, according to a new study, thanks largely to a greater haul of this premium seafood… All told, crustaceans account for 22% of the CO2 emissions from fishing, despite making up just 6% of all the tonnage landed…”
For many more reports about how our food choices are decimating life in the oceans and of the higher disease risks associated with eating seafood, click those links.
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From a 2016 article by the Climate Council (Australia): “So what does food have to do with climate change? Let’s start with animal agriculture. In Australia, emissions from agriculture contribute around 13% of the total national greenhouse gas emissions each year, which is Australia’s fourth highest source of emissions (after electricity, stationary energy and transport)…
The vast majority of emissions are methane from livestock (basically cows burping and “passing wind”), with smaller volumes from other sources such as fertiliser…
Reducing the amount of animal products that we eat (particularly lamb, beef and dairy products) and eating more plant-based foods can contribute towards reducing these emissions. This can also have other important environmental benefits, like using less water and land.”
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In regards to the environmental impacts of plant-derived “meat” a 2018 from the United Nations Environment Programme titled “Tackling the world’s most urgent problem: meat.”
Excerpt: “Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are joint winners of the Champions of the Earth Award, in the Science and Innovation category …
According to a research study conducted by the University of Michigan, a quarter-pound Beyond Burger requires 99 % less water, 93 % less land and generates 90 % fewer greenhouse gas emissions, using 46 % less energy to produce in the U.S. than its beef equivalent.
“What’s clear is that the way we produce meat today is not sustainable. We are pushing limits on both natural resources and atmosphere,” says Brown …
Dr. Patrick O. Brown, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Impossible Foods:
As Member of the National Academy of Medicine and Professor of biochemistry at Stanford University in 2009, O. Brown … wanted to assess which global problems are the most urgent and which he could help to solve.
Using animals for food makes up the vast majority of the land footprint of humanity. All the buildings, roads and paved surfaces in the world occupy less than one per cent of Earth’s land surface, while more than 45 % of the land surface of Earth is used as land for grazing or growing feed crops for livestock.
Unless we act quickly to reduce or eliminate the use of animals as technology in the food system, O. Brown reasoned, we are racing toward ecological disaster …
The Impossible Burger requires approximately 75 % less water and 95 % less land, generating about 87 % lower greenhouse gas emissions than beef burgers.
“Based on all we’ve learned, there’s no question that the use of animals as a food-production technology will soon be obsolete. Making meat directly from plants is not only far less destructive to the environment, but it will enable meat to be more delicious, healthy, diverse, and affordable. Create the best meat in the world, let consumer choice drive the change and the use of animals as food technology will soon be a fading memory.”
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“Methane emissions from cattle are 11% higher than estimated” is a 2017 article in Guardian newspaper (UK). Excerpt: “Bigger livestock in larger numbers in more regions has led to methane in the air climbing faster than predicted due to ‘out-of-date data… posing an additional challenge in the fight to curb global warming, scientists have said…
After rising slowly from 2000 to 2006, the concentration of methane in the air has climbed 10 times more quickly in the last decade…
methane from human activity – approximately two-thirds of the total – is produced in two ways: the odourless and colourless gas leaks during the production and transport of coal, oil and especially natural gas; and, in roughly equal measure, from the flatulence of ruminants such as cattle and sheep, as well as the decay of organic waste, notably in landfills.
Methane accounted for about 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, according to the IPCC…
Methane is far more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, capturing more of the sun’s radiative force, but it persists for less time in the atmosphere. Taking that into account, scientists calculate that over a 100-year period the “global-warming potential” of the gas is 28 times greater than for carbon dioxide…”
Article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/29/methane-emissions-cattle-11-percent-higher-than-estimated
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The Independent: “Cow ’emissions’ more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars”
“Meet the world’s top destroyer of the environment. It is not the car, or the plane, or even George Bush: it is the cow.
A United Nations report has identified the world’s rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.
The 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow, also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs and goats. But in almost every case, the world’s 1.5 billion cattle are most to blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
Burning fuel to produce fertiliser to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it – and clearing vegetation for grazing – produces 9 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. And their wind and manure emit more than one third of emissions of another, methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.
Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain.
Ranching, the report adds, is “the major driver of deforestation” worldwide, and overgrazing is turning a fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert. Cows also soak up vast amounts of water: it takes a staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.
Wastes from feedlots and fertilisers used to grow their feed overnourish water, causing weeds to choke all other life. And the pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used to treat them get into drinking water and endanger human health.
The pollution washes down to the sea, killing coral reefs and creating “dead zones” devoid of life. One is up to 21,000sqkm, in the Gulf of Mexico, where much of the waste from US beef production is carried down the Mississippi.
The report concludes that, unless drastic changes are made, the massive damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases.”
Source: Independent newspaper UK, Sunday 10 December 2006 – http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/cow-emissions-more-damaging-to-planet-than-co2-from-cars-427843.html
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2017 report in The Guardian: “Are flatulent shellfish really contributing to climate change?”
Excerpts: “Scientists studying the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden have found that shellfish are producing one-tenth of all the greenhouses gases released there – the equivalent to the amount produced by 20,000 cattle. If the same situation is being replicated around the rest of the world’s seas and oceans, we have a serious problem …
The two gases in question – methane and nitrous oxide – are potent agents of climate change, with a warming potential 28 and 265 times greater than carbon dioxide respectively …
shellfish were releasing these gases long before global warming became an issue … recent emissions may have been exacerbated by the enrichment of coastal waters, due to the run-off from agricultural fertilisers.
To put this into perspective, the average cow produces 120kg of methane every year – 1,000 times as much as even the most flatulent human. With almost 100m head of cattle in the US alone, that means that 12m tonnes of gas are being released annually, dwarfing the efforts of the shellfish.”
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The Guardian: “There’s a population crisis all right. But probably not the one you think…”
Excerpts: “While all eyes are on human numbers, it’s the rise in farm animals that is laying the planet waste…
If we want to reduce our impacts this century, the paper concludes, it is consumption we must address. Population growth is outpaced by the growth in our consumption of almost all resources. There is enough to meet everyone’s need, even in a world of 10 billion people. There is not enough to meet everyone’s greed, even in a world of 2 billion people.
So let’s turn to a population crisis over which we do have some influence. I’m talking about the growth in livestock numbers. Human numbers are rising at roughly 1.2% a year, while livestock numbers are rising at around 2.4% a year. By 2050 the world’s living systems will have to support about 120m tonnes of extra humans, and 400m tonnes of extra farm animals.
Raising these animals already uses three-quarters of the world’s agricultural land. A third of our cereal crops are used to feed livestock: this may rise to roughly half by 2050. More people will starve as a result, because the poor rely mainly on grain for their subsistence, and diverting it to livestock raises the price. And now the grain that farm animals consume is being supplemented by oil crops, particularly soya, for which the forests and savannahs of South America are being cleared at shocking rates.
This might seem counter-intuitive, but were we to eat soya rather than meat, the clearance of natural vegetation required to supply us with the same amount of protein would decline by 94%. Producing protein from chickens requires three times as much land as protein from soybeans. Pork needs nine times, beef 32 times.
A recent paper in the journal Science of the Total Environment suggests that our consumption of meat is likely to be “the leading cause of modern species extinctions”. Not only is livestock farming the major reason for habitat destruction and the killing of predators, but its waste products are overwhelming the world’s capacity to absorb them. Factory farms in the US generate 13 times as much sewage as the human population does.
Freshwater life is being wiped out across the world by farm manure. In England the system designed to protect us from the tide of slurry has comprehensively broken down. Dead zones now extend from many coasts, as farm sewage erases ocean life across thousands of square kilometres.
Livestock farming creates around 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: slightly more than the output of the world’s cars, lorries, buses, trains, ships and planes. If you eat soya, your emissions per unit of protein are 20 times lower than eating pork or chicken, and 150 times lower than eating beef.
So why is hardly anyone talking about the cow, pig, sheep and chicken in the room? Why are there no government campaigns to reduce the consumption of animal products, just as they sometimes discourage our excessive use of electricity?
It’s not as if eating less meat and dairy will harm us. If we did as our doctors advise, our environmental impacts would decline in step with heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer. British people eat, on average, slightly more than their bodyweight in meat every year, while Americans consume another 50%: wildly more, in both cases, than is good for us or the rest of life on Earth…”
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International Business Times: “Cow Farts Have ‘Larger Greenhouse Gas Impact’ Than Previously Thought; Methane Pushes Climate Change.”
Excerpt: “A new study of methane emissions finds that the U.S. is spewing 50 percent more methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere than the Environmental Protection Agency previously assumed. Several factors contribute to the accumulation of methane gas in Earth’s atmosphere, such as the burning of fossil fuels and leaks from oil and gas refining and drilling, but one contender stands out above the rest as particularly repugnant: cow farts…
According to the new research, livestock’s noxious flatulence accounts for a large portion of the methane gas being released into the atmosphere. Researchers say cows are producing twice as much methane gas as scientists previously believed…
The EPA has also recognized the contribution cow farts are making to Earth’s greenhouse gases, stating earlier that globally, livestock are the “largest source of methane from human-related activities”…
Source: International Business Times, November 26 2013 – http://www.ibtimes.com/cow-farts-have-larger-greenhouse-gas-impact-previously-thought-methane-pushes-climate-change-1487502
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TIME magazine article: “Silence the Cows and Save the Planet.” Excerpts: “Flatulent cows are not a laughing matter… The emissions produced by nature’s woodwind section contain a nasty mix of many gasses, among them methane. Though carbon dioxide is the first gas that comes to mind when we think of greenhouse emissions, pound for pound, methane is more than 20 times more powerful in terms of its global warming potential. Methane doesn’t linger in the atmosphere quite as long as CO2, and it’s not produced industrially in anywhere near the same quantity, but it does its damage all the same — and livestock toots out a surprisingly large share of it.
According to one Danish study, the average cow produces enough methane per year to do the same greenhouse damage as four tons of CO2. The average car, by contrast, produces just 2.7 tons. Multiply that by the planet’s 1.5 billion cattle and buffalo and 1.8 billion smaller ruminants and you have the methane equivalent of two billion tons of CO2 per year…”
Source: TIME, March 30, 2011 – http://science.time.com/2011/03/30/silence-the-cows-and-save-the-planet/
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A 2013 article in The Guardian (UK) newspaper website is titled “How much water is needed to produce food and how much do we waste?” It states: “As much as 50% of all food produced in the world ends up as waste every year according to figures from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. But how much water is needed to produce it?… Meat production requires a much higher amount of water than vegetables. IME state that to produce 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water whereas to produce 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres of water… Chocolate tops the list with 17,196 litres of water needed to produce 1kg of the product. Beef, sheep and pork meat all require high volumes of water for production also. Tea, beer and wine use the least according to the list. Compared to the production of meat, vegetable foodstuffs require considerably less water… Look at the table below to see how much water is required to produce a selection of common foodstuffs…”
Source: The Guardian, January 10, 2013 – https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jan/10/how-much-water-food-production-waste
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Time magazine 2013: “You may think you live on a planet, but really you live on a gigantic farm, one occasionally broken up by cities, forests and the oceans. Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed — albeit some of us, of course, more than others. And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.
Livestock production — which includes meat, milk and eggs — … uses one-third of the world’s fresh water. There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock…
1.3 billion tons of grain are consumed by farm animals each year — and nearly all of it is fed to livestock, mostly pork and poultry, in the developed world and in China and Latin America…
The poor feed quality in impoverished regions like sub-Saharan Africa means that a cow there may consume as much as 10 times more feed — mostly grasses — to produce a kilogram of protein than a cow raised in richer regions. That lack of efficiency also means that [grass-fed] cattle in countries like Ethiopia and Somalia account for as much as 1,000 kg of carbon for every kg of protein they produce — in the form of methane from manure as well as from the reduced carbon absorption that results when forests are converted to pastureland. That’s 10 times higher than the amount of carbon released per kg of protein in many parts of the U.S. and Europe, where livestock production is much more intensive…”
Reference: “The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production”, Bryan Walsh is a senior editor at TIME; at http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/
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National Geographic 2015: “Eating a Burger or Driving a Car: Which Harms Planet More?”
An interview with Denis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes, authors of “Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment.”
“You write that eating a pound of beef has more impact on climate change than burning a gallon of gasoline. Explain.
That pound of beef grown on a confined animal feeding lot and fed grain is grown in huge tracts in the Midwest. If you throw in the amount of energy that is used in making the nitrogen fertilizer deposited on the cornfields; all the gasoline that goes into the tractors that plow the fields and harvesters that harvest the grain; the gas used to transport the corn to the feeding lots where the cows are slaughtered and refrigerated and moved off into the market; the gas people use in their two-ton SUVs to go down to the grocery store and buy the beef, bring it home and refrigerate it some more, and then cook it—by the time you’ve gone through all of that, the amount of carbon dioxide that is given off per pound of beef is, in fact, greater [than burning a gallon of gasoline].”
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Dairy Industry Polluting Water.
From a 2015 article in The Guardian newspaper: “Think dairy farming is benign? Our rivers tell a different story… Farming is now, by a long way, the nation’s leading cause of severe water pollution. And of all kinds of farming, dairy production causes the greatest number of serious incidents…”
Which links to this UK Government Environment Agency Report “Pollution incidents” – refer to page 8 regards “Serious pollution incidents caused by farming activities in England” https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/448728/LIT_10127.pdf
From a 2016 media article titled “Dairy farmers are being ‘milked dry’, but let’s remember the real cost of milk” – some excerpts regards the environment: “livestock farming is, both directly and indirectly, one of the most ecologically harmful human activities…
In Australia, livestock farming accounts for 10% to 16% of greenhouse gas emissions, with dairy farms contributing 19% of this, or 3% of total emissions. Methane emissions, from digestion and manure, and nitrous oxide from livestock are significant contributors. Globally, the livestock sector is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the world’s transport.
Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land, including the land used to grow crops to feed these animals. Animal agriculture is a key factor in land degradation, deforestation, water stress, pollution, and loss of biodiversity…
Research shows that we must reduce food waste and losses in the supply chain and change our diets toward less resource-intensive diets, such as a plant-based diets. Doing so would cut emissions by two-thirds and save lives. It’s possible to eliminate animal suffering and reduce carbon emissions by reducing and replacing livestock production and consumption.
Alternatives to dairy milk include soy and almond milk. Soy milk is nutritionally comparable to dairy milk and has a significantly smaller environmental footprint…”
According to a report hosted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.”
Reference: “Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations”, 2004, page 21, U.S. National Service Center for Environmental Publications; care of http://nepis.epa.gov/ and for a direct link to the page of the report or use https://tinyurl.com/dairywaste
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Time magazine 2011: “How Meat and Dairy are Hiking Your Carbon Footprint… the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)… recently released its groundbreaking “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health”, an admirably comprehensive breakdown of both the environmental footprint and health effects of our food choices. The handbook comes with easy-to-read graphics, a wallet-card summary of the information, quizzes and irresistible data-bits like “if your four-person family skips steak 1 day a week [for a year], it’s like taking your car off the road for almost 3 months.” …
Many of the EWG’s findings are pretty eye-opening — like some revealing facts about beef, which produces twice the emissions of pork, four times as much as chicken, and 13 times that of vegetable protein such as beans, lentils, and tofu. That’s especially alarming since we waste so much meat — ultimately throwing away about 20% of what we produce — meaning that all that carbon was generated for nothing.
The USDA’s related findings about emissions related to milk and cheese came from a study it conducted of a single commercial dairy with 10,000 milk cows in southern Idaho… If you think that kind of operation can produce a lot of noxious discharge, you’re right. The investigators monitored a year’s worth of ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions and found that this one dairy gives off 3,575 pounds of ammonia, 33,092 pounds of methane, and 409 pounds of nitrous oxide per day. Now consider that there are 365 days in a year and tens of thousands of dairy farms in the U.S.
The takeaway from both reports is that eating meat and dairy is expensive, and in a whole lot of ways. Remember, it’s not just the carbon emissions that hurt; it’s also the pesticides, fertilizers, fuel, and water needed to produce the feed for all those cows and pigs. And once that damage is done, there are still the health consequences we all face from eating too much meat, particularly red meat…”
Reference: http://science.time.com/2011/07/26/how-meat-and-dairy-are-hiking-your-carbon-footprint/ And for the EWG’s Guide “Guide to Climate Change + Health” see https://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/
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From a 2008 study titled “Global Farm Animal Production and Global Warming: Impacting and Mitigating Climate Change” some excerpts: “The farm animal sector is the single largest anthropogenic user of land, contributing to many environmental problems, including global warming and climate change…
We analyzed the scientific literature on farm animal production and documented greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as various mitigation strategies…
An analysis of meat, egg, and milk production encompasses not only the direct rearing and slaughtering of animals, but also grain and fertilizer production for animal feed, waste storage and disposal, water use, and energy expenditures on farms and in transporting feed and finished animal products, among other key impacts of the production process as a whole.
Conclusions: Immediate and far-reaching changes in current animal agriculture practices and consumption patterns are both critical and timely if GHGs from the farm animal sector are to be mitigated…”
Reference: Environ Health Perspect. 2008 May; 116(5): 578–582. Published online 2008 Jan 31. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11034 PMCID: PMC2367646; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367646/
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The United Nations reported in 2006: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official Henning Steinfeld said. “Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”
“When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 per cent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.”
Source: “Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns” at
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From an article titled “Water footprint of crop and animal products: a comparison” some excerpts: “The projected increase in the production and consumption of animal products is likely to put further pressure on the globe’s freshwater resources. The size and characteristics of the water footprint vary across animal types and production systems.
The water footprint of meat from beef cattle (15,400 m 3 /ton as a global average) is much larger than the footprints of meat from sheep (10,400 m 3 /ton), pig (6000 m 3 /ton), goat (5 500 m 3 /ton) or chicken (4 300 m 3 /ton). The global average water footprint of chicken egg is 3 300 m 3 /ton, while the water footprint of cow milk amounts to 1000 m 3 /ton.
Per ton of product, animal products generally have a larger water footprint than crop products. The same is true when we look at the water footprint per calorie. The average water footprint per calorie for beef is twenty times larger than for cereals and starchy roots. When we look at the water requirements for protein, it has been found that the water footprint per gram of protein for milk, eggs and chicken meat is about 1.5 times larger than for pulses. For beef, the water footprint per gram of protein is 6 times larger than for pulses. In the case of fat, butter has a relatively small water footprint per gram of fat, even lower than for oil crops. All other animal products, however, have larger water footprints per gram of fat when compared to oil crops. From a freshwater resource perspective, it is more efficient to obtain calories, protein and fat through crop products than animal products…
Global animal production requires about 2422 Gm 3 of water per year (87.2% green, 6.2% blue, 6.6% grey water). One third of this volume is for the beef cattle sector; another 19% for the dairy cattle sector. Most of the total volume of water (98%) refers to the water footprint of the feed for the animals. Drinking water for the animals, service water and feed mixing water account only for 1.1%, 0.8% and 0.03%, respectively.”
Reference: http://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/product-water-footprint/water-footprint-crop-and-animal-products/ – has links to several more related reports.
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A 2016 article is titled “Demand for Meat Is Driving Water Shortages Affecting 4 Billion People. Climate change, population growth, and skyrocketing meat consumption is making water scarce for two-thirds of the world’s population.”
Some excerpts: “Almost 4 billion people—two-thirds of the world’s population—face severe water scarcity at least one month a year, according to new analysis…
“About one-third of the world water consumption is for producing animal products. Their water footprint is larger than that of crop products with equivalent nutritional value,” Hoekstra said…
“For example, the average water footprint per calorie for beef is 20 times larger than for cereals and starchy roots,” he said. “The meat consumption per person in the world is still increasing, so the water demand grows quickly because of that.”
As temperatures rise because of climate change, dry places are getting drier. And burgeoning demand and more intense and longer droughts are depleting groundwater reserves…”
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From a 2015 article in Mother Jones titled “We’ll All Eat Less Meat Soon – Like It or Not” an excerpt: “Is the feedlot system itself sustainable? That is, can we keep stuffing animals—not just cows but also chickens and pigs—into confinements and feeding them gargantuan amounts of corn and soybeans? And can other countries mimic that path, as China is currently?
The answer, plainly, is no, according to the eminent ecologist Vaclav Smil in a 2014 paper. Smil notes that global meat production has risen from less than 55 million tons in 1950 to more than 300 million tons in 2010—a nearly six-fold increase in 60 years. “But this has been a rather costly achievement because mass-scale meat production is one of the most environmentally burdensome activities,” he writes, and then proceeds to list off the problems: it requires a large-scale shift from diversified farmland and rainforests to “monocultures of animal feed,” which triggered massive soil erosion, carbon emissions, and coastal “dead zones” fed by fertilizer runoff. Also, concentrating animals tightly together produces “huge volumes of waste,” more than can be recycled into nearby farmland, creating noxious air and water pollution. Moreover, it’s “inherently inefficient” to feed edible grains to farm animals, when we could just eat the grain, Smil adds.
This ruinous system would have to be scaled up if present trends in global meat demand continue, Smil writes—reaching 412 million tons of meat in 2030, 500 million tons in 2050, and 577 million tons in 2080, according to projections from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Such a carnivorous future is “possible but it is neither rational nor sustainable”—it will ultimately destroy the ecosystems on which it relies…”
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From a 2016 article titled “Animal Agriculture’s Environmental Impact Is Still Being Ignored.”
Excerpts: “This World Environment Day marks 10 years since the UN described the livestock sector as ‘one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,’ but has anything been done in the subsequent decade to address such a grave warning?
The landmark report Livestock’s Long Shadow, in which the UN called for ‘urgent action’ in 2006, offered great hope for change at a policy level. Instead, nothing. No policies, no initiatives or any kind of public education campaign aimed at trying to curb climate emissions from farming animals. Just freedom for the sector to carry on with business as usual.
Last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Paris presented a ready-made opportunity to agree carbon cutting obligations in specific areas. Animal products were all over the world leaders’ menus, but left completely off their agenda. The Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries, omitted any mention of livestock, agriculture or animals across its 31 pages.
Why has animal agriculture been brushed conveniently under the carpet? There is of course intense pressure from an extremely powerful meat and dairy lobby, the extent of which should not be underestimated. There also remains historical links between consuming meat and social status, and misinformation about the need for animal products in a healthy diet…
The past 10 years of governmental apathy in this area has been an injustice of the highest order, and cannot be repeated. Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transport combined. It must not continue to be shielded from scrutiny and afforded protected status given the severity of the implications.
It’s not just a climate issue. One in nine of the world’s population – almost 800 million people – go hungry, yet enough grain to feed up to 3.5 billion people is fed to livestock. Deforestation is also occurring at an alarming rate with the World Bank estimating that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.
Nor are the problems a result of just meat production. The dairy industry, far from its perception as an innocuous by-product, is every bit as destructive, alone accounting for roughly 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Your average cow produces around 700 litres of methane per day, which is the equivalent of a large 4×4 vehicle travelling 35 miles in a day.
Farmers are struggling. So much so that half of all UK dairy farmers are reported to be intending to quit their sector. English dairy farmers receive around a third of their income in EU subsidies amounting, on average, to around £25,000 per dairy farmer per year. Rather than continue propping up a failing industry, the Government ought to improve the agricultural system, make it greener.
One solution: subsidise farmers interested in diversifying away from livestock systems to growing sustainable plant protein crops…:
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Carbon Footprint of Meat-eating Pet Animals:
Dogs can have double the meat consumption & related carbon footprint of many humans.
Salon article: “An average-sized dog consumes about 360 pounds [163 kg] of meat in a year and about 210 pounds of cereal. Taking into account the amount of land it takes to generate that amount of food and the energy used, that makes your dog quite the carbon hound. A 2009 study by New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington concluded that pet dogs have carbon paw prints double that of a typical SUV.” 
In contrast the average human omnivore, in a high meat consuming nation like Australia, eats 204 pounds (92.5 kg) of land animals per year. 
 – https://www.salon.com/2014/11/20/the_surprisingly_large_carbon_paw_print_of_your_beloved_pet_partner/
 – https://EatingOurFuture.wordpress.com/your-impact-how-many-animals-are-killed-for-lifetime-consumption-of-meat-and-seafood/
From a 2018 news report: “A quarter of the impact of meat production comes from the pet-food industry. Has the time come to change what we feed our dogs and cats?…”
It refers to this 2017 report in the PLOS One science journal, titled: “Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats.”
Excerpts: “In the US, there are more than 163 million dogs and cats that consume, as a significant portion of their diet, animal products and therefore potentially constitute a considerable dietary footprint.
Here, the energy and animal-derived product consumption of these pets in the US is evaluated for the first time, as are the environmental impacts from the animal products fed to them, including feces production.
In the US, dogs and cats consume about 19% ± 2% of the amount of dietary energy that humans do… and 33% ± 9% of the animal-derived energy…
They produce about 30% ± 13%, by mass, as much feces as Americans… and through their diet, constitute about 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides.
Dog and cat animal product consumption is responsible for release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs)…
Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts.”
Reference: “Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats.” PLOS One, August 2, 2017; http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0181301
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Water Pollution by the Dairy Industry:
From a 2016 newspaper article: “New Zealand needs to get rid of 80 per cent of its dairy cows because dairying is dirtying our water. That was the message delivered to the annual meeting of Wanganui Federated Farmers by its former president.
Rachel Stewart, president of the group for four years in the early 2000s and guest speaker at Friday’s annual meeting, is an “ardent critic” of farming.
Ms Stewart, recently crowned Opinion Writer of the Year at New Zealand’s premier journalism awards, began her talk by saying she loved farming – but dairy farming was responsible for 80 per cent of the degradation of New Zealand waterways and Federated Farmers needed to stop denying it.
This year’s Budget allocated $100 million over 10 years to cleaning up waterways.
“The taxpayer cleans up, and the polluters continue to pollute,” said Ms Stewart, who lives at Westmere and writes a regular newspaper opinion column…”
2017 article titled “Wales is similar to NZ. Cows and Sheep: Dairy farming is polluting…” some excerpts:
“Dairy farming is polluting New Zealand’s water. Government data suggests that 60% of rivers and lakes are unswimmable …
Data published in 2013 suggested that it was not safe for people to submerge themselves in 60% of New Zealand’s waterways. “We used to swim in these rivers,” says Sam Mahon, the artist. “Now they’ve turned to crap.”
Mr Smith’s National Party is now out of government. But the real villains behind New Zealand’s deteriorating water quality are still at large: cows …
Some 6.6m cattle are now squeezed into the country of 4.7m people, transforming even an iconic arid grassland, the Mackenzie Basin (made famous by the “Lord of the Rings” films), into a tapestry of emerald fields.
The first concern is bovine urine, which is rich in nitrogen. Nitrogen can cause toxic algae to grow when it leaches into water. Nitrogen fertiliser, used to increase fodder yields so that more cows can be raised on less land, exacerbates the problem.
At many of the sites where the government tests the groundwater it contains too much nitrate to be safe to drink … In Canterbury, one of the most polluted areas, expectant mothers are told to test tap water to avoid “blue baby syndrome”, a potentially fatal ailment thought to be caused by nitrates. The poisonous blooms have killed dogs.
An even greater concern for human health comes from cow dung, which contains nasty bacteria such as E.coli. Three people died last year after a well was contaminated with another bug called campylobacter. Sheep were to blame in that case, yet cows have a proclivity for wading in rivers and their faeces often find their way into water. New Zealanders are twice as likely to fall ill from campylobacter as Britons, and three times more than Australians or Canadians.
And then there is the damage to native flora and fauna. The algal blooms suck the oxygen from rivers. Sediment washed from farmland can also choke the life out of streams. Almost three-quarters of native species of freshwater fish are under threat.
New Zealand is a rainy place, but farmers are also criticised for causing rivers to shrivel and groundwater to fall in certain overburdened spots. One recent tally suggested that just 2,000 of the thirstiest dairies suck up as much water as 60m people would—equivalent to the population of London, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro combined. Most is hosed on the stony Canterbury region, including the Mackenzie Basin. Earlier this year locals were forced to rescue fish and eels from puddles which formerly constituted the Selwyn river, after drought and over-exploitation caused long stretches to dry up …”
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Regards the Burden of Poultry/Chicken Farming on the Environment:
A UN-FAO report “Poultry production and the environment – a review” – excerpts:
“Conclusions:… Generally, the environmental impacts of the sector are substantial. Poultry production is associated with a variety of pollutants, including oxygen-demanding substances, ammonia, solids, nutrients (specifically nitrogen and phosphorus), pathogens, trace elements, antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, and odour and other airborne emissions. These pollutants have been shown to produce impacts across multiple media…”
Another quote: “Poultry slaughterhouses release large amounts of waste into the environment, polluting land and surface waters as well as posing a serious human-health risk. The discharge of biodegradable organic compounds may cause a strong reduction of the amount of dissolved oxygen in surface waters, which in turn may lead to reduced levels of activity or even death of aquatic life. Macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) may cause eutrophication of the affected water bodies. Excessive algal growth and subsequent dying off and mineralization of these algae may lead to the death of aquatic life because of oxygen depletion…”
The reports includes sections on:
~ Carbon dioxide emissions from slaughtering
~ Carbon dioxide emissions from international trade
~ Greenhouse gases emissions from feed production
~ Pollution issues resulting from culling campaigns
~ Soil contamination with heavy metals
~ Ecosystem contamination with drug residues and hormones
~ Arsenic use in intensive poultry production in the United States of America
~ Effects of endocrine disruptors from intensive poultry on fish
~ Ecosystem contamination through ammonia deposition
~ Environmental impacts related to feed production (Erosion of biodiversity, Overexploitation of natural resources…)
The report is at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/11b5/7f4788910bc6263f7eebbe74c58c3eaff779.pdf
(UN-FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
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Regards the Water Footprint of Food:
“Agriculture consumes about 70% of fresh water worldwide; for example, approximately 1000 liters (L) of water are required to produce 1 kilogram (kg) of cereal grain, and 43,000 L to produce 1 kg of beef...”
Reference: “Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues”, BioScience, Volume 54, Issue 10, 1 October 2004, Pages 909–918; at https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/54/10/909/230205/Water-Resources-Agricultural-and-Environmental
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From an article in National Geographic titled “Water Conservation Tips” excerpt: “The water it takes to produce the average American diet alone—approximately 1,000 gallons per person per day—is more than the global average water footprint of 900 gallons per person per day for diet, household use, transportation, energy, and the consumption of material goods.
That quarter pounder is worth more than 30 average American showers. One of the easiest ways to slim your water footprint is to eat less meat and dairy. Another way is to choose grass-fed, rather than grain-fed, since it can take a lot of water to grow corn and other feed crops.
A serving of poultry costs about 90 gallons of water to produce. There are also water costs embedded in the transportation of food (gasoline costs water to make). So, consider how far your food has to travel, and buy local to cut your water footprint.
Pork costs water to produce, and traditional pork production—to make your sausage, bacon, and chops—has also been the cause of some water pollution, as pig waste runs into local water sources.
On average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet…”
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Regards the water footprints of food a 2018 report in Nature journal states: “For all 43,786 analysed geographical entities, the water footprint decreases for a healthy diet containing meat (range 11–35%). Larger reductions are observed for the healthy pescetarian (range 33–55%) and healthy vegetarian (range 35–55%) diets. In other words, shifting to a healthy diet is not only good for human health, but also substantially reduces consumption of water resources, consistently for all geographical entities throughout the three countries.”
Reference: “The water footprint of different diets within European sub-national geographical entities”, Nature Sustainabilityvolume 1, pages 518–525 (2018),
A related report states: “a vegan diet uses five times less water than a meat-based diet, a study by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) has found … Earlier this year, even the meat publication Global Meat News admitted that animal agriculture is to blame for a third of the global water footprint …”
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Comparing the Water Footprint of Meat, Dairy & Soy Products:
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From a 1997 article in the Cornell Chronicle of Cornell University USA: “Animal agriculture is a leading consumer of water resources in the United States, Pimentel noted. Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food. Raising broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to make a kilogram of meat. In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat, 900; and potatoes, 500 liters.
“Water shortages already are severe in the Western and Southern United States and the situation is quickly becoming worse because of a rapidly growing U.S. population that requires more water for all of its needs, especially agriculture,” Pimentel observed.
Livestock are directly or indirectly responsible for much of the soil erosion in the United States, the ecologist determined. On lands where feed grain is produced, soil loss averages 13 tons per hectare per year. Pasture lands are eroding at a slower pace, at an average of 6 tons per hectare per year.
But erosion may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures, and 54 percent of U.S. pasture land is being overgrazed.
“More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans,” Pimentel said. “Although grain production is increasing in total, the per capita supply has been decreasing for more than a decade. Clearly, there is reason for concern in the future.”
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Comparing the Water Footprints of Omnivores Versus Vegetarians in Australia
Excerpts: “In Australia, water is taken from rural streams to produce food to feed people in cities… In Victoria, 75% of that diverted water is being used for agriculture, and about 12% for urban domestic purposes. The great bulk of water used in agriculture goes toward irrigation, and mostly irrigation of pasture for dairy and beef cows…
Urban consumers very much drive the condition of rural streams through their food choices…
Meyer (1997) estimated that 1Kg of Australian beef requires an astonishing 100,000L of water to produce, and 1Kg of butter, requires 18,000L of water. The Water Education Foundation (1991) produced a water-use table for foods in a sample daily menu. Examples of water used in the menu were toast and butter (213L), chicken (435L), cheese (636L) and ground beef (312L)…
Indirect and direct water consumption:
The average Melbourne household directly uses 936 litres per day, whilst through food consumption; 9,276 litres per day per household. Thus, on average, water use through food consumption is 90% of a household’s water use. Regardless of how scenarios are combined, much more water is consumed through foods than through direct water use. The percentage of direct water use to total water use ranges from 6%, for an all male household with a garden (scenario 1), who consume 3,928 Litres per capita per day, to 26% for a vegetarian household with no garden (Scenario 27) who consume just 1,345 Litres per capita per day. Thus, the water used to feed one average person can feed three vegetarians…
In gross terms, these results mean that changing one’s diets could save much more water than changing ones water-use behaviour in the home. For households that love meat, eating poultry instead of beef and pork will half their total water usage (from 3568L to 1603L per day). This is a saving of three times the total amount of water used directly in the home. Urban consumers can dramatically reduce their total water consumption with the following actions:
1. consume less food (and hence less water) by wasting less food (or by eating less food altogether!);
2. select comparable products that use less water;
3. substitute types of food that use more water for types that use less;
4. become a vegetarian…
Select the more water-efficient product…
In the year 1998-99, each Australian consumed an aver age of 102 L of milk… choosing milk from the Murray irrigation area would consume 56,600 embodied litres of water per year, compared with 27,340 litres of water embodied in milk produced in Gippsland… This is a reduction in water use of nearly 30,000L per year or 80 L/day. Compare this with the 17 litres per day per person that has been saved in Melbourne under Stage 3 water restrictions between 2005 and 2006…
Consumers can ‘substitute’ entire groups of foods in their diet that use different amounts of water in their production. For example, in general, the greater the protein content of foods, the more water is used in their production per kg. However, by choosing soybeans and lentils instead of cheese, you would be eating roughly the same amounts of protein, but saving more than 2,000 litres of water per kilogram of food…
Become a vegetarian:
A vegetarian diet can save households up to 35% of their total water usage. That is 13 times the volume of water that would be saved by not watering the garden. The environmental benefits of vegetarianism have been made for many years, and Renault (2003) suggests that an animal product based diet may need 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. Certainly the water efficiency of vegetable production is startling…
In one sense, urban food consumers are also consuming rivers. Small changes in food choices could potentially lead to water savings that dwarf the savings that can come from changes in direct water consumption. Thus, river condition is, to some extent, a consequence of decisions made in urban supermarkets.
We believe that this is an empowering observation. Urban people, far from being isolated from the environment, make critical decisions about rivers, every day, in their consumption choices…
Source: “City people eat rivers: estimating the virtual water consumed by people in a large Australian city” – by Ian Rutherfurd, Amelia Tsang and Siao Khee Tan; School of Social and Environmental Enquiry, University of Melbourne; at
https://www.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/748426/Rutherfurd_Ian_348.pdf as of 2015-10-15
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From a 2015 New York Times article titled “How Growth in Dairy Is Affecting the Environment” – about the San Joaquin Valley in California “near the heart of dairy country in a state that produces 20 percent of America’s milk.”
Excerpts regards Air and Water Pollution: “With industrial-scale farms that each house thousands of cows, the region is also at the center of a global debate about dairy’s impact on the environment…
The region suffers from severe air pollution, in part from the dust, methane and manure of dairy farms…
Climate-warming gases emitted by manure, feed production, milk processing and even cows’ burping are a concern…
environmentalists and residents say they are still paying the price for the world’s taste for milk, cheese and yogurt, in the form of tainted water, terrible odors, flies and fumes that add to the region’s severe air pollution…
The American Lung Association says the region suffers from America’s highest levels of the tiny, airborne pollution particles that are linked to ailments like heart attacks and strokes. Many sources contribute, including heavy truck traffic and the dairy and feed processing facilities whose vast tanks and chutes line Highway 99…
Near a big cow farm in Riverdale, residents “are not comfortable even going outside on most summer days, they’re not comfortable inviting people to their homes and they’re not comfortable having their children play outside,” said Cesar Campos, coordinator at the Central California Environmental Justice Network, in Fresno. “Dairies, there is that smell attached to it, it is impossible for the community to ignore.”…
A host of environmental concerns stem from the concentration of cows in huge farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations…
With high-quality feed like soy and corn, cattle on such farms can be very productive, so fewer greenhouse gases are emitted per unit of milk produced… But the huge amounts of manure produced without sufficient land in need of fertilizing can create air and water problems for nearby communities…
Water worries focus on leakage of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as dangerous bacteria including E.coli. Ammonia wafts into the air from manure lagoons, and gases known as volatile organic compounds are created by the huge piles of feed…”
Excerpt regards deforestation: “Large-scale dairies exist in Europe, too, but are generally much smaller than those in the United States. The expiration on April 1 of European Union milk quotas, in place for more than 30 years to prevent overproduction, is likely to lead to an expansion of such intensive farming, said Sandra Vijn, dairy director for the World Wildlife Fund in Washington.
The resulting increase in European demand for cattle feed could cause environmental problems in Latin America, where forests are cleared to grow soy for export, Ms. Vijn said, noting that the concern underlined the global nature of the dairy industry…”
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This set of articles were compiled for
Pages on this Site:
Quotes from news reports & science journals on how the Western omnivore diet with meat and dairy products accelerates climate-change through: i) increasing our carbon footprint of greenhouse gases; ii) deforesting & destroying wilderness that absorbs carbon and protects biodiversity; iii) creating massive pollution; and iv) wasting resources like grains, water, fuels and agricultural lands.
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Excerpts & links to medical studies, articles & reports on the links between meat consumption and increased incidences of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and early mortality (a shorter lifespan); also to reports on how cancers are increasing in young people.
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Quotes & links to articles in science, medical & health journals that report great benefits vegetarians and vegans generally have including longer lives with less of the chronic degenerative diseases like cancer, cardiovascular heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity as well as lower blood pressure, hypertension and blood cholesterol levels.
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Excerpts & links to articles in news media science journals about the current ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ known also as the ‘Holocene Extinction’ or ‘Anthropocene Extinction’ as it is largely caused by human activities.
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This page contains quotes & links for studies & articles in science journals, news media & by medical doctors; on the association of drinking milk to higher rates of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.
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This page features quotes & links to articles in news media and science journals about the rise of microbes that are resistant to antibiotics; posing a grave threat to all of us; from 50% to 80% of antibiotics are (mis-)used in animal agriculture industries.
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This page features quotes & links to reports that expose how the animal agriculture industries (meat, dairy, poultry) influence government, politics, the education schooling system and news media in order to promote their interests.
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Excerpts from articles about the marine ecosystem collapse that is happening now in oceans, seas & rivers due to over-fishing and the toxic pollution in waterways from land-based animal agriculture meat-farming; worsening climate change; threatening the entire food chain.
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Articles from science journals & news reports that dispute the health claims made regards eating fish; some even find higher rates of heart disease and cancer among seafood consumers.
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A collection of quotes & links for articles by doctors, dietitians & nutrition experts who refute & rebut the negative claims made regards “the soy food debate”
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For Archives of Related Memes see:
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