It’s easy to think the environmental comparison between cars and hamburgers may be silly.
When you drive a car, you can easily see the gas fumes drifting up into the sky first hand.
However, a beef barbecue on a hot summer day has even greater impact that you probably were unaware of!
Let’s take a look at why there’s such a large disparity between beef and Bentleys.
Cow farts are toxic!
While the negative effects of beef are from the production in its entirety, even just their farts are deadly!
According to the United Nations, the combination between cow’s burps and farts account for at least four percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Why is this?
Science tells us that methane, which is in cow burps and farts, is better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2.
So while cars may be emitting more CO2 by volume, methane is 23 times more potent, which means cows end up causing more harm.
To put it into perspective, cows produce the equivalent damage to the environment as four tons of CO2!
Grain versus Grass.
Part of the problem is what the cows need to eat and how they process it.
When cattle are being farmed for beef production, the goal is to get as much meat from the cow as fast as possible.
Cows are typically fed grain instead of grass in order to speed up production.
However, their bodies’ slow digestive system is designed to digest grass, not grains.
The grain that is fed to the cattle is just another problem. The feed for cows needs huge amounts of nitrogen fertilizer – nitrogen, which requires lots of fossil fuel to product.
This impact is indirect, but it is there!
Buying grass fed beef means their methane gas farts are less potent and less nitrogen is needed, although even then it is still worse for Mother Nature over any other meat product.
CO2 plays its part.
After the meat is ready from the farm, it then needs to go from the slaughterhouse, to the processing center, then finally to your grocery store.
Being transported multiple times means the toxic effects from an 18 wheeler are going into the air multiple times.
The carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere per each pound of beef is more than burning one gallon of gasoline.
Overall, the production of just one burger releases the equivalent amount of greenhouse gas as driving almost 200 miles.
Beef production is more harmful than any other meat.
Tasty as it is, compared to other animals, red meat needs 28 times more land to yield than pork or chicken
The first obvious reason is that cows are just generally bigger! But there are more indirect side effects than just that.
Plants and greenery and incredibly helpful when it comes to helping the earth in terms of converting CO2 into oxygen.
But just another problem to add to the endless list, is the fact that cattle ranching is a major factor of deforestation around the globe.
It was determined that a whopping 80% of deforestation in the Amazon was due to cattle ranching.
Additionally, overgrazing is turning one fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert.
At a time when we need oxygen more than ever, swapping it out for methane is no good!
Rain is not always a good thing.
One little known fact about beef, is that they are responsible for 2/3 of the ammonia that is discharged into the atmosphere.Cow manure and urine release ammonia into the air.
Due to the fact that thousands of cows are kept together in farms, this results in highly concentrated ammonia gas, and therefore results in acid rain.
When we think of acid rain, our minds might go to a dramatic scene of rain falling from the sky and burning our skin.
However, it typically only causes harm to plants, animals, soil, so we don’t hear about as often because the results are not directly seen.
But still, cows play a major part in this problem that shouldn’t be ignored.
How does this compare to cars?
By volume, cars emit more CO2 than cows emit methane. But as we’ve said before, methane is more powerful at trapping heat which is the source of global warming.
So while cars may produce more CO2 by volume than methane, it’s the methane that is even more problematic.
For some perspective, let’s compare the average amount of methane produced by cows to the equivalent amount of CO2.
On a yearly basis, cattle and buffalo produce the CO2 equivalent of two billion tons of CO2 per year.
On the other hand, the average car produces only 2.7 tons annually.
Car emissions down, beef emissions up.
Thanks to the efforts of people like Elon Musk, people are steering more towards driving electric cars or more gas efficient vehicles as opposed to gas guzzlers.
By contrast, global poverty is becoming less and less, which is great!
But as people earn more money, they are also able to purchase more meat products, including beef.
Don’t blame the cows!
While cows are the cause of many problems, it’s not their fault!
By no means do cows need to go extinct in order to save the earth, but ranching and over-breeding done by humans needs to be reduced greatly.
If they had been left alone to naturally live, the overpopulation wouldn’t be an issue.
The combined efforts of cow feed, cow farts, transportation, and deforestation, are all a problem that needs to be addressed.
And while it’s ideal for everyone to switch to a non-meat diet, that’s not always reasonable.
So at the very least, cutting down your beef intake to no more than once a week, or even not at all, will be helpful for the earth and thus beneficial for humans as a whole.
So the next time you’re opting for a hamburger barbecue, perhaps you’ll consider swapping over to chicken!