The Biggest Step Toward Lowering Your Carbon Footprint is Lowering Your Meat Consumption

Producing one calorie from animal protein requires 11 times as much fossil fuel input—releasing 11 times as much carbon dioxide—as does producing a calorie from plant protein. As Michael Pollan famously said, “A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius.”

A double quarter-pounder with cheese from McDonald’s, for instance, takes 26 ounces of oil to produce. That means thirteen pounds of carbon into the air, which is the equivalent of burning seven pounds of coal. But that's only part of the hidden cost. Feeding massive amounts of grain and water to farmed animals and then killing them and processing, transporting, and storing their flesh is extremely energy-intensive. In addition, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide stored in trees are released during the destruction of vast acres of forest to provide pastureland and to grow crops for farmed animals.

On top of that, a recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that the animals' burps, the nitrous oxide gases and large quantities of carbon dioxide coming from their decomposing manure and other factors, including the energy needed to store and transport meat, were responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions - more than the world's entire transportation sector.

Turns out that not eating meat is the 'single most effective thing you can do' to reduce your climate change impact. Of course not everyone is going to stop eating meat but there are alternatives to the most environmentally destructive industrial production model of meat production and organic grass fed beef is one such example. The fact is that the true costs of our conspicuous consumption, in every part of our lives not just on our plates, are hidden from view on purpose because if the true full costs of our folly were evident we'd change our actions.