Vegetarian + Vegan Issues

Published on March 4th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions (& Toxic Waste Lagoons) by Eating Less Meat

Several months ago, back in June of 2010, I wrote up a story on the environmental impact of eating meat based on a new-at-the-time United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report on the matter. I recently ran across another good story on this topic on a friend’s site, Global Warming is Real, titled “Eating Less Meat to Cut CO2 Emissions” and shared it with our site editor, Becky Striepe, and a few others. Becky gave the nudge to write an update on the topic using some of the info in the story. Good idea, I thought. So,…

Livestock Production and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The writer of the article, Alexis Bonari, referenced perhaps the most widely cited study on the connection between meat consumption and global warming, another UN FAO study that found that 18% of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock production. The main causes of the emissions? The raising and transporting of grains to feed the livestock, the clearing of land for such purposes and for grazing, and the notorious methane emissions from cow burps and cow farts.

If you are not aware of these stats, Bonari notes, “it takes 7 kg of feed to produce just 1 kg of beef, 4 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of pork, and 2 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of chicken.” Here’s a chart on that:

And here’s an excellent visual on how many cows, pigs, and chickens are killed each second in the United States alone:

Here’s another interesting visual as well, on the number of animals that need to be killed to produce one million calories:

Other studies have come to slightly different findings on the relationship between livestock production and greenhouse gas emissions, but the overall point is that livestock productions is a huge contributor to global warming. One study, published in the journal World Watch, actually found that at least 51% of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock and poultry production.

Toxic Waste Lagoons

Beyond the global warming issue, Bonari also notes that the waste from animals kept in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) is so toxic (due to the chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and pesticides used in producing the animals’ feed and beefing up the animals themselves that farmers won’t even use it for fertilizer.

“Thus, nearby every CAFO is a lagoon of toxic waste, a biological experiment producing deformed frogs and plant life, and contributing to air, water, and ground pollution,” she notes.

With factory farming rising rapidly over the past several years, there must be a ton of those by now.

Not good.

Cut the Meat

I imagine this is an issue we’ll come back to at some point in the future, and I imagine the conclusion won’t change. If you want to cut your ecological “foodprint,” the best way is probably to cut the meat.

You can do this completely, can cut it one day a week, or can even cut one meat-heavy meal a week for one based on vegetables and grains. If everyone in the U.S. just did the last thing, it would be equal to removing half a million vehicles from road.

I would advocate going fully vegetarian, think it is actually simpler and has a much greater impact. Even Mike Tyson, MMA fighters, Carl Lewis, and a number of our most-respected historical figures and celebrities are doing or have done this… But really, do whatever you can, whatever YOU feel comfortable with.

Related Story: Which is Better for the Environment, Local or Vegetarian?

Photo Credit: Compassion in World Farming

Keep up with the latest sustainable food news by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

7 Responses to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions (& Toxic Waste Lagoons) by Eating Less Meat

  1. Kathryn says:

    Just wanted to let you know that the UN scientists have admitted to an error in their study. The Un scientist have produced a corrected study and GHG emissions are much lower approximately 4%. US dairy farmers have reduced their GHG emissions by over 60% since the 1940s. Finally, on a nutrient density bases, milk and meat have one of the lowest GHG emissions per nutient.

  2. Amanda says:

    I’m sure…..only recently have people seriously begun taking saving the environment seriously. How would it be reduced if we are just growing, as it were, more and more animals and not using their waste for anything?

  3. Pingback: Poll: Describe Your Diet – Eat Drink Better

  4. Pingback: 10 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day all Year Round | Ethicalistic

  5. Pingback: Vegetarian Guidance: Join Meat Free Mondays, Eat Veggy once a Week | Practically Green

  6. Pingback: Factory Farm Investigations on New Interactive Map – Eat Drink Better

  7. Pingback: Pasture-Raised Cattle Better for the Environment Than CAFO Cattle – Eat Drink Better

Back to Top ↑
  • Support our Site!

  • Let’s Connect!

  • Popular Posts & Pages

    Whether you are looking to completely give up animal products or just want to try eating vegan some of the time, we want to support you! Below, you’ll find articles answering some common questions about vegan cooking and nutrition. If you don’t see your question answered below, please get in touch with us! We are happy to investigate for you!

    Find out what's in season now, plus get plenty of recipe inspiration to help you make the most of every season's beautiful, local fare.

    I love infographics. When I came across this one about what, how, and when to plant vegetables, I thought I’d share. Keep reading after the pic for a few of my own lessons learned.

    Top Sustainable Food Jobs of the Week.

    Looking for an all vegan grocery store? Even if you’re not lucky enough to have one in your town, there are lots of online options for vegan grocery shopping.

  • Search the IM Network

  • The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.