We love painting the oil and automotive corporations as the big bad guys when it comes to placing the blame for environmental problems, but the food industry is just as legitimate a menace. Natural resources are being gobbled up at an alarming rate, and in many instances the farms that raise livestock are doing a surprising chunk of the global damage.
For instance, it takes 123 gallons of fresh water for a cow to produce just one gallon of milk. Pretty insane, right?
Now consider this: 586 million tons of milk gets shipped out each year from farms. That works out to 17 trillion gallons of water being put to use just for cows.
Raising cattle for meat instead of milk is no more cost effective. On average, you’d need 2,400 gallons of water to get just one pound of beef, but only 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat.
These days, it’s easy to find info about how being a vegetarian is healthy, or how “meat is murder,” but the environmental troubles that come as a direct result of our civilization’s carnivorous tendencies are dizzying…. and stats on water usage are just the tip of the iceberg.
The world has 1.5 billion cattle alive at any given time, and between them all, they produce more greenhouse gases than all planes, trains and automobiles combined.
Yes, you read that right. Most of the detrimental output comes in the form of invisible methane gas, expelled from cows directly or produced as a by-product during the breakdown of manure. Distressingly, methane is also 20 to 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas in out atmosphere than carbon dioxide, further attributing to global climate change.
Then there’s the fact that three quarters of the world’s farmland produces food that is just fed to other food (read: livestock). Growing crops is tremendously more space-efficient, and each acre would yield roughly ten times the output if we grew food there instead of raised it.
Also worth noting is that it takes about 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein, considering all the feeding, transportation and machinery. Think how much better off our planet would be if we didn’t have to raise and slaughter all these resource-siphoning, gas-producing cows.
So… where’s the outrage? Why aren’t environmentalists picketing commercial farms instead of oil companies?
For one, cows seem innocuous at face value. Most people wouldn’t ever guess that Bessy’s flatulence is punching holes in the o-zone layer. The stink of manure just doesn’t seem to be as noxious as the tar-colored air pollution that billows out of smoke stacks and tail pipes.
The second reason this info might come as a surprise is the same reason there’s no nutritional information on beer cans. There’s a lot of dollars changing hands and a lot of deals being cut behind closed doors regarding this matter, and when information might cause problems, the powers that be do a good job at under-publicizing.
This is by no means secret information, but it’s just not prominent information. We live in a complex, backwards world; I’m just here to try to help you simplify this crazy place.
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