The environmental impact of a beef burger

What is the environmental footprint of a quarter pound (113g) beef burger?

This will vary depending on many factors. Let’s consider an average feedlot beef produced in the U.S. (this is the vast majority of beef produced and bought in the U.S.)

To produce a quarter pound (113g) of beef, it takes in average:

Water: 460 gallons (1,740 L). This includes both the water the cows drink and the water to irrigate the crops they eat, as well the water to wash the animals or clean the feedlot. Farming accounts for about 70% of used in the world.

Water and soil pollution: pollutants include pesticides used to grow the crops, fertilisers, pathogens, hormones, antibiotics or feed additives given to the cattle, and excess of animal faeces in soil.

Land use: 64.5 square feet (6 m2) for a quarter pound of beef. Land is needed to grow the cows’ feed. Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources. Grazing land and cropland dedicated to the production of feed represents 80% of all agricultural land. This is a driver for deforestation in many parts of the world.

Greenhouse gases: 0.126 pounds (0.05kg) of methane (CH4). Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times as potent as CO2. Cow’s digestive process naturally produces large quantities of methane. Methane emissions from farming represents 25% of all methane emissions in the U.S.

Feed: it takes 13 pounds (5.8kg) of feed to produce a quarter-pound of beef.

Conclusion: a simple quarter pound (113g) of beef requires intensive natural resources. All these resources are mainly used to grow the feed for the cows. In comparison, growing vegetables, fruits or grains require a much smaller amount of resources.

Sources: Business Insider, The Guardian.

Author: easyecotips