A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef causes more greenhouse-gas and other pollution than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on back home, according to a Japanese study. A team led by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, calculated the environmental cost of raising cattle through conventional farming, slaughtering the animal and distributing the meat, New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue.The full paper is here, if your library subscribes.
Producing a kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef causes the equivalent of 36.4 kilos (80.08 pounds) in carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, Ogino found.
Most of these greenhouse-gas emissions take the form of methane, released from the cow's digestive system.
That one kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef also requires energy equivalent to lighting a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. The energy is needed to produce and transport the animals' feed.
A Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic beef emits 40 percent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 percent less energy because the animal is raised on grass rather than concentrated feed.
The study appears in full in a specialist publication, Animal Science Journal.
Comparing this to other sources of CO2 emissions, the 80 pounds of CO2 emitted is equivalent to that emitted by 4 gallons of motor fuel. It seems like we need to expand our systems of tradable permits to include enteric methane, or cut back on the product.