Science Made Simple: Animal Agriculture

We typically think of the energy industry, pollution, and transportation as some of the most dangerous sources of environmental degradation.

But what if one of the top contributors to climate change was common in our homes and a regular part of our day to day lives?

The meat industry uses an incredible amount of resources and is actively aiding in the warming of our planet. Here’s why:

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From Vegan Food and Living


  • Although livestock and aquaculture only count for 3% of the total United States water footprint, approximately 98% of water that animal agriculture utilizes is from food. Irrigation for crops accounts for 37% of the total U.S. water footprint, says a 2015 United States Geological Survey.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, feed for livestock accounts for approximately 1/3 of global crop lands.
  • After the animal is fully grown and killed for meat, it must be processed with immense amounts of water. 1 pound of beef takes around 441 gallons of water to produce for consumption.

For reference, if you consider that an average burger is around 5 ounces, then you could create more than 3 burgers from 1 pound of beef. At the same time, a standard shower head uses approximately 2.5 gallons/minute, or 25 gallons for a ten minute shower. The amount of water used to process 1 lb. of package beef is equal to taking almost 18 (ten minute) showers. 

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From Nature’s Path Organic


According to FAO,  around 20% of the world’s grasslands and pastures have been degraded by cattle, primarily from overgrazing and erosion.

What’s even more frightening is the scramble to create more land for livestock to utilize. In Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, around 60% of deforested land is used for pasture. Though soy used to be the main threat to forests, Greenpeace reports that the Brazilian government forecasts a doubling of Brazil’s share of beef products by 2108.

The Amazon holds around 10% of the earth’s carbon, or around 80-120 billion tonnes. If destroyed, 50 times the amount U.S. greenhouse gases could be released.

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Human caused fire in the Amazon. By Mario Tama.

Greenhouse Gases.

A report by FAO states that 24% of total global greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture (both crop and animal). Within this sector, the largest emitters are enteric fermentation (cattle farts – 40%) and manure left on pasture (16%).

The reason why cattle farts are such a large contributor is 1) the number of animals and 2) the type of greenhouse gas.

Though we typically focus on carbon dioxide, which can come later with production and transportation, methane can be a far greater threat. Methane gas has around 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. While methane begins to lessen in levels within a decade of being released, short term effects are far more dangerous than those of CO2. 

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By Marcus Yam.

Americans love meat.

According to Bloomberg, Americans are estimated to consume around 222 pounds of red meat and poultry in the year of 2018.

Many are actively trading carbohydrates for meat, a trend that may have been devised by countless members of the fitness and dieting community. While carbohydrates are equated with weight and fat gain, citizens are switching to protein in order to be healthier and build muscle.

The USDA suggests that women and men should intake 5 and 6 ounces of protein a day, respectively. However, Americans typically consume 10 ounces a day of meat and poultry, which doesn’t include other sources of protein like beans and peas.

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Credit – volff / Fotolia

Too much.

According to this report by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, there are many risks from consuming too much meat:

  • Cooking or frying meat at high temperatures can release HCAs, harmful mutagens that increase risk of rectal cancer.
  • Grilling meat over fire can released PAHs, compounds that can increase the risk of stomach cancer.
  • High intake of fat from animal products has shown to be linked to incidence of breast cancer. This has been recorded in Japanese women, who consume little fatty meat and lots of soy, which helps prevent cancerous causing hormones. (as well as many other studies).
  • High fat and saturated fat, along with refined sugars, contribute to colon cancer. In a study, the group with the highest intake of red meat were 30-50% more likely to develop colon cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, processed meat is classified as a Type 1 carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer in humans. Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats.

Meat has also been show to cause higher incidences of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.


Less meat is better for you and the planet. The choice is yours.



All information was taken from memory, education, or from external sources listed in the article or below.

Methane vs. Carbon Dioxide: A Greenhouse Gas Showdown

Click to access circ1441.pdf




2 thoughts on “Science Made Simple: Animal Agriculture

  1. So eating less red meat is not only healthier for the environment it’s also healthier for us. Sounds like a win-win.


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