According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agriculture is directly or indirectly responsible for over a quarter of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is also bad for the soil, wetlands, coastal waters, forests, wild habitat, and biodiversity.
Between pasture and feed-stock crops, beef consumption accounts for roughly half of land use and agriculture-related emissions in the US.
Plus, American consumers aren’t responsible for all that beef-related land-use anyway: domestic consumption has been relatively flat for years. However, exports, especially to developing countries, have been growing steadily for quite some time.
I certainly don’t begrudge developing countries their increasing consumption of beef: over a third of their women suffer from anemia - like the women in Congo, where per capita beef consumption is around half a pound a year.
The top ten beef-consuming countries are, in order: Uruguay, Argentina, Hong Kong, United States, Brazil, Paraguay, Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, and Chile.
Per the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN would make huge progress towards meeting its 2050 land-use and emissions climate change mitigation targets if 2 billion people reduced their ruminant (mostly beef) meat consumption by 40%. Under such a scenario, poorer countries could still consume more ruminant meat than they are currently - to their citizens’ nutritional betterment given the prevalence of anemia in so many of these countries.
Basically this boils down to convincing men in high- and middle-income countries to eat less beef. As in cutting their beef consumption by about two-thirds.
American men consume around 40 ounces of beef a week, on average. They should reduce that to around 14 ounces a week. Hey! That’s still a steak and two hamburgers every week. Not too much of a sacrifice to help save the planet.
Besides, there’s still pork and chicken, both of which have much lighter carbon footprints than beef:
As for the grass-fed cow movement: forget it! This headline basically says it all: Harvard Study Finds Shift to Grass-Fed Beef Would Require 30% More Cattle and Increase Beef’s Methane Emissions 43%. Or if you prefer: The Search for Sustainable Beef: Grazing threatens wildlife and takes an enormous toll on habitats, and won’t fix the climate crisis animal agriculture creates.
The amount of land devoted to cattle grazing must be reduced.