How Cows Impact Climate Change

Once upon a time my favorite food in the world was a cheeseburger. It didn’t even have to be a special cheeseburger. It could be from a diner, or McDonalds, or maybe even just fried up on my stovetop…I just LOVED cheeseburgers. It was my go-to, feel-good food.

That was a long time ago. Around 10 years ago, in support of a friend battling cancer, I tried a 30-day raw diet detox. The detox didn’t stick for me, but as part of a raw diet I automatically had to be meat-free, and after 30 days of no cheeseburgers, I found that I actually didn’t miss them all that much. In fact, I found that I actually preferred veggie burgers. And so started my unlikely path to a vegetarian lifestyle.

As it turns out, being vegetarian fits well with the way my brain works. I like animals – and the animal agriculture industry has become insanely cruel, not to mention unhealthy. Add to that the fact that eating meat, especially cow meat, is extremely detrimental to the environment, and you can be pretty sure that I’m never eating cow again.

But how do cows hurt the environment, you may be wondering? It goes like this:

  • Factory farming is the rule when it comes to producing meat, dairy, (and eggs), all over the world
  • In the U.S., 99.9% of chickens for meat, 97% of laying hens, and 78%  of cattle are raised in factory farms
  • A staggering one-third of the world’s land mass is designated for growing livestock feed. In the U.S. alone, 88% of agricultural land is devoted to producing beef calories
  • Ranching is the major driver of deforestation worldwide
  • At our current rate of deforestation for agriculture, National Geographic estimates we have about 100 years left before the world’s rainforests vanish completely
  • Burning fuel to produce fertilizer to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it – and clearing vegetation for grazing – produces 9% of all emissions of carbon dioxide
  • The “wind” and manure emitted from cows is more than one third of methane emissions in the world — of note, methane warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5%  of global greenhouse gas emissions — in other words, that Prius your driving? Doesn’t touch what animals are doing to our environment

Still in the mood for a cheeseburger? Look, you don’t need to give up all meat, or all dairy. Just maybe consider what you can do to change your diet to prevent the livestock industry from wreaking literal havoc on the planet. Even a small reduction in your consumption of meat and dairy can make a difference! Meat-free Mondays? Why not? We’ve all gotta start somewhere! You can do it.

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