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Beef and global warming

Unless you are a fervent vegetarian, nothing lights up the beefy side of any person as the smell of fresh steak roasting over the grill

But in the process of fulfilling this culinary desire, are you aware that you are chocking your own planet?

What? How?

Not my own call, but according to statistics laid down by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions arise from keeping of livestock.

So exactly where does beef come into this?

Well, 65% of these livestock emissions are accumulated from the rearing of beef cattle as well as dairy cattle.

I know you are now contemplating of giving up your meat but before you do (if you agree to, that is), let’s go through this subject of global warming and try to understand how your everyday cow can be such a menace to the planet.

How livestock cause global warming.

a. The land problem

Let’s start with a simple equation. If you want to rear cattle, then you need a ranch but then you need land and sadly, you need to cut down some trees. This is where livestock farming starts to affect the planet.

According to a study published in Nature Communications, the biggest contributing factor to food-related deforestation is meat. Most land is created by cutting down trees to provide that coveted piece of land on which beef and dairy cattle can be reared.

But the land problem doesn’t end there.

According to Eschel et al, it is estimated that producing beef requires 28 times more land than it is required to produce an equal quantity of pork or poultry.

The demand is huge!

Cutting down these trees doesn’t serve the planet any good because half of the trees is made up of carbon. When they are left to rot or are alternatively burnt, they release carbon (IV) oxide to the atmosphere, which spells bad news.

But there’s more greenhouse that comes from these cows.

b. The cow’s burp

Yes, cows do burp and not in the greenest ways possible.

A cow’s burp, like that of most ruminants, comes loaded with a lot of methane in it. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has a more damaging effect than carbon (IV) oxide itself. In fact, according to research, methane has 25 times more global warming potential than carbon (IV) oxide.

More daunting is the fact that an average cow in North America produces 53 kilograms of methane per year! That’s quite a serious load.

Apart from these two major sources, standard farming practices such as manufacturing of manure and use of fertilizers also contribute to the 14.5% global footprint these farm animals have on the planet’s pollution.

The solution

This is where bad news is broken to the non-vegetarians; reduce your meat consumption.

According to a paper published by the World Resources Institute, 50% of beef related emissions can be reduced by slashing our meat consumption completely and going vegetarian.

Not good news for you?

Well alternatively, the same paper suggests that by reducing your consumption of red meat, you can reduce livestock related greenhouse emissions by 15% to 35% by 2050.

Final word

Looking away from your Barbeque grill for a few times (or forever), might not be the best option for you at the moment. But for environmentalists like me, such an option is inevitable.

So, living by my words, I am starting my going green campaign with a few broccolis (hope I haven’t started too literally).

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