How Livestock Farming Depletes the Ozone

Meat-Consumption-JpgThe United States is the second highest country in the world that consumes meat, with an average American consuming 270.7 pounds per year[1]. Only Luxembourg beats this number, with an average of 301.4 pounds of meat consumed per person per year[2]. With this amount of food consumed by each person, it is no surprise that about 51% of America is farmland[3]. But with the high demand of food comes the high costs affecting our planet.

According to the EPA, the agricultural sector is the primary source of methane, or CH4, emissions in the United States[4]. To give you a broad scope of how this gas affects our planet, a 2013 study by the EPA concluded that CH4 accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity[5]. Livestock is the major driver for the CH4 emissions, considering humans collect their manure to make fertilizer, which produces CH4. Farming livestock not only creates access greenhouse gases, but it also causes global land-use and land-use changes. Examples include deforestation, desertification, and the release of carbon from the cultivated soils, contributing to the overall destruction of habitats and the ozone[6].

But how exactly does eating one hamburger contribute to harming our planet? Let’s break it down. To feed the cow that will become the hamburger, you need 6.7 pounds of grains. Then 52.8 gallons of water are needed for both the cow and irrigation, and a total of 74.5 square feet for every cow to graze and for growing crops for the cow to eat. Lastly, an average of 1,036 btu of fossil fuel energy are needed for feed production and transport of the meat[7]. All of these resources are precious, especially now that fossil fuels are pricey and California is currently in a severe drought. These numbers don’t even include the cow’s waste or CH4 emissions. There may be one upside, however: cattle inventory has dropped since the 1970s. So, fewer cows are being slaughtered. Still, the United States has been producing more meat compared to the 1970s[8]. The question then arises, is it worth the unethical treatment of the animals and the access greenhouse gases to continue to eat meat? Let us start at the beginning.

With the introduction of agriculture over 10,000 years ago, humans relied less on the previous hunter-gatherer methods and more on the byproducts of domesticated animals. Before domestication, meat was a viable source of protein needed for early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals to survive. However, their environment was much different than the one we know today. Early humans lived in a much colder, harsher climate; a diet of only nuts and roots would not sustain you for long 10,000 years ago. However, nowadays meat is easily procured and produced for us. Modern conveniences like mass livestock farms and supermarkets have reduced our need for hunting, let alone direct domestication of our own livestock. Without the need to farm ourselves, the need to understand where our food comes from and how it is produced no longer interests us. As a nation, America no longer cares about the food we eat.

When we no longer care for the facts, we become disengaged from our health and the affects certain foods have on our bodies. According to the American Dietetic Association, “…appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” (2009, Journal of the American Diet Assoc.). Protein is found throughout a variety of vegetables and fruits, and thanks to the modern age, incorporating them in your daily food is made easy through a variety of powders, simple recipes, and veggie “meats”.

With less consumption of meat and animal byproducts, we can dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by livestock farming, as well as the continued extinction of our forests due to livestock farmland. Even by going “meatless” once a week for a meal, or better yet a day, we help one step at a time to save our planet. But if eating less meat seems unrealistic, there are other options for those who want to lower carbon and methane emissions.

BEST-Techs is one of the only BPI Certified and GreenPoint Rated construction companies that will test and measure for harmful emissions in homes. Jason, the Building Scientist, tests gas burning appliances, furnaces, AC units, water heaters, and the many other mechanics in homes and checks for proper installation and working condition. Most of the time, homeowners do not realize that their everyday appliances emit odorless, and potentially fatal, carbon monoxide gas. Getting your home tested for CO2 and CH4 emissions is a simple and affordable way to help the environment. And unlike eating less meat, testing homes is a more direct approach to lowering harmful emissions that deplete our ozone.

 

[1] “A Nation of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up”; http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/06/27/155527365/visualizing-a-nation-of-meat-eaters

 

[2] “A Nation of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up”

[3] “Major Land Uses”;

http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/land-use,-land-value-tenure/major-land-uses.aspx

 

[4] “Overview of Greenhouse Gases”; https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

 

[5] “Overview of Greenhouse Gases”

[6] “The Role of Livestock in Climate Change”; http://www.fao.org/agriculture/lead/themes0/climate/en/

 

[7] “A Nation of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up”

[8] “A Nation of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up”