- Science! July 22
Two new studies looking at the beef industry show that it might be better for the environment to try white meat instead.
A study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that in the United States, it takes 28 times as much land and 11 times as much water to raise cattle for beef than it does equivalent portions of pork and poultry. A cattle farm also produces at least five times as much gas into the atmosphere. "For people, the obvious answer is: whenever possible, replace beef with something else," Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist and lead author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times. "If you really need it to be from animal sources, that's still OK.... As long as it's not beef, you have always made a significant step forward, because beef is so much more intensive than the rest."
The beef industry disagrees. "The fact is the U.S. beef industry produces beef with lower greenhouse gas emissions than any other country," Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, director of sustainability research for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said in a statement. That is true, according to a second study released Monday in the journal Climatic Change: Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in developed countries (including the U.S.) have decreased 23 percent since 1970. Globally, however, those emissions have increased 51 percent, and have more than doubled in developing countries.
This study looked at livestock in 237 countries, and estimated that beef cattle produced more than 50 percent of methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Dairy cattle came in second, with 17 percent; sheep ranked third, with 9 percent; and buffalo were in fourth place, with 7 percent. Pigs only accounted for 5 percent, and goats, 4 percent. The largest increases were in the Congo, Oman, and the Central African Republic. "More and more of the developing world is adopting the bad habits of the developed world," Ken Caldeira, ecologist and co-author of the study, told the Times.- - Catherine Garcia
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