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Meatless Monday Can’t Change The World

Thought about sticking to Meatless Monday to reduce your carbon foot print?

Let’s discuss why there are better options for you to reduce your impact on climate change!

Cattle standing in line

How much meat are we eating?

According to USDA Supply & Disappearance Data the average American ate only 54.7 lb of beef in 2018. Since each carcass creates about 500 lbs in retail meat, that means we can feed roughly 10 Americans for a year with just 1 cow!

Like all things in our world, the production of cattle does cause a release of green house gases into the environment. According to the University of Michigan, a 4 oz serving of beef creates 6.61 lbs of CO2. At first, that seems like a lot, especially if you look at it on an annual basis. 54.7 lb/per person/year * 6.61 lbs CO2/4oz beef = 723 lbs of CO2 equivalent per year due to beef consumption. 

But let’s compare that to the average Americans lbs of CO2 per year.

The average American lifestyle produces 44,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent every year! Only 723 lbs, or 1.64%, can be attributed to beef consumption.

The EPA states that for every 1 gallon of gasoline used, 20 lbs of C02 equivalent are produced. Therefore, a years worth of beef consumption is only equivalent to 36.15 gallons of gas! (723 lb CO2 from beef / 20 lb CO2 from gas = 36.15 gallons of gas) If the average vehicles get 20 miles per gallon, you only have to drive 723 miles to produce the same amount of CO2 as a years worth of eating beef! If you had a 15 mile commute each way, you’d produce the same amount of CO2 in 24 days of going to work.

Would eliminating meat make a difference?

Again referencing the USDA Supply & Disappearance data, we can determine that with a 4 oz serving Americans eat…

Only 336 meals a year with meat! If the average person eats twice a day, that means 54% of American meals are meatless!

So why can’t we just make meals 100% meatless? Because it could have drastic effects!

Already, 20% of edible beef sold in the US is wasted every year, if consumers begin to purchase less beef now, that meat will simply be wasted and head to the landfill. Since cattle are 12-15 months of age before they reach market weights, and a cows gestation period is 9 months long, trends in the beef industry from consumer to producer take almost 2 years to be actualized!

Plus, beef is one of the leading sources of 10 nutrients! Reducing meat in the diet could affect nutrition on a global scale. Food access is difficult to accommodate to different lifestyles, while providing the variety consumers want, and the convenience to fit into their life. A shift away from meat could lead to more processed foods, more sugars, and more health problems in America.

Have Your Steak, and Eat It Too!

Not eating meat isn’t going to reduce your impact on the environment, since it already plays such a small role in your carbon foot print, but a huge role in your diet! In fact, even going meatless on Monday’s won’t change a thing since there are only 52 Mondays in a year (104 meals) and Americans already are going meatless for 394 meals a year!

If we cut beef consumption worldwide by 50% we could decrease the cattle herd by 50% but… we could decrease the cattle herd by even more (62%) by making the rest of the world as efficient in beef production as the US is!

It’s important to find other avenues to reduce our CO2 equivalent, ones that are more effective and don’t jeopardize our health.

Meat on Cutting Board

Don’t Call Me, I’m Eating Beef!

Did you know the production of 1 iPhone 11 produces 158.4 lbs of CO2 equivalent? But the production of smart phones is minimal compared to our use of them!

1 MB of data transmission produces 34 grams of CO2. The average smartphone user is using 31.4 gigabytes of data a month.

That means that every month, just from using your cell phone, you are producing 2,348.72 lbs of CO2! That is equal to eating beef for over 3 years!

Calculations:

31.4 GB x 1000 MB/GB = 31,400 MB Data use/month

34 g CO2/MB x 31,400 MB/month= 1,067,600 g CO2/month

1,067,600 g CO2/month x .0022 g/lb = 2348.72 lbs/month!

Input your regular data use into the equation above and see how much CO2 you produce every month from using your smartphone!

If you produce 2349 lbs of CO2 every month with your phone, that is over 28,188 lbs of CO2 per year! Using your phone for a year produces 38 times more CO2 than eating beef for a year. 

Every Day Life.. It’s Full of CO2!

Did you know for the average household (2.6 people) the home accounts for 27% of an Americans annual CO2 production?!

Running a plasma TV for 6 hours a day (Hello, Netflix Binge!) produces 788.40 lbs of CO2! That’s more than an entire year of eating beef..woah! Opt for an HDTV or LCD to cut your emissions in half! Better yet.. get outside and turn the TV off all together! Eliminating TV’s altogether can save .90% of your annual CO2 emissions!

Do you have ceiling fans in your home? If you’re like me, they are always on (’cause Florida is HOT). Just one ceiling fan, running non-stop for a year accounts for .82% of an annual CO2 equivalent! Have multiple fans going? Just multiply that number! Keep your fans turned off when you’re not home and reduce that number by 50%!

Did you know the average American produces enough trash to account for 7.58% of the CO2 equivalent they produce in a year? Making a point to reduce trash and recycle/reuse items correctly could make a big impact in your carbon footprint!

Easy Changes to Go Green Today!
  • Observe posted speed limits!

Going the speed limit increases fuel efficiency which reduces vehicle emissions and saves on fuel use. Observing the speed limit could reduce your carbon foot print by 721.56 lbs per year, that’s 1.64% of your annual CO2 equivalent!

  • Setting a thermostat 2 degrees warmer in the summer and 2 degrees cooler in the winter.

This small change can save on energy production which would save you 769.23 lbs of CO2! That’s 1.75% less CO2 you’re contributing to the atmosphere! Those two degrees make all the difference. 

  • Properly insulating your water heater & reducing the max temperature to less than 120 degrees.

Reducing the energy consumption of your water heater can shave off 1.62% of the CO2 equivalent you produce each year! That’s 711.54 lbs of CO2 just by adjusting the water heater!

Making these simple changes could reduce your carbon footprint by 5.01% (2202.23 lbs of CO2!) and does not sacrifice nutrition or taste!

Check out more ways to reduce your carbon equivalent with this table.

Learn more about how Cattle DO Cause Climate Change here!

8 Comments on “Meatless Monday Can’t Change The World

  1. Thank you for providing the whole picture on our carbon footprint and climate change per the cattle industry. More folks need to read your report, especially those who rant about the cattle. I will be sure to reference your article with the next uninformed person.

    Your list of better ways to reduce our footprint was enlightening. I am guilty of a few and will make changes. 🙂

  2. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a natural and beneficial constituent of the atmosphere.  By volume percentage, 99% of dry air is nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%). Most of the rest is argon (0.93%), with carbon dioxide amounting to only 0.04%, but slowly increasing. Even smaller amounts of other gases, neon, helium, methane etc., make up the remainder.
    Atmospheric CO2 is a key to life on earth, this is because plants use sunlight to combine CO2 molecules from the air with H2O molecules to make carbohydrates (for example, sugar) and other organic compounds. In the process, oxygen molecules (O2) are released to the atmosphere. At CO2 levels less than 150 ppm (parts per million), most plants stop growing. Over most of the history of multicellular life on earth, CO2 levels have been three or four times higher than present levels. Current CO2 levels of 400 ppm are still much less than optimum for most plant growth.

  3. What rubbish! Eating less meat would cause more meat to go to waste? That is ignorant at best. If you have any knowledge of supply and demand – any – you would resize that reduced demand would lead to reduced “production.”
    Simply getting nutrients from meat is a reason to continue the horrible practices such as factory farming and meaningless killing and maltreatment of living beings sounds like logic our government would use. I’m shocked that IFAS with the little credibility it has would allow ridiculous content such as this.

    The alternatives have merit yet should absolutely not be in lieu of creating an increasingly environmentally aware society which also increases compassion.

    Look at real health reports about carcinogens.

    • I appreciate your willingness to engage in the conversation regarding our food supply. There is a lot of misinformation out there and I encourage you to speak to real agricultural producers to get the full story on where your food comes from.

      I did mention that a drastic change in meat consumption would lead to waste, and this is because of the time frame it would take for reduced demand to lead to reduced production. (All of the meat we will eat for the next 2-3 years had already been born or they are in utero now. This means, if we all stopped eating beef today the hanging meat would all go to waste and the beef herds on the ground today would have nowhere to go, or would be euthanized. )

      Again, thanks for joining the conversation and I appreciate your thoughts.
      Happy Eating!
      Alicia Halbritter

  4. Thank you for your in depth report. You point out some good things, but I also feel like some are misguided or generalizations. First of all, my take on eating less meat to reduce our carbon footprint is something that will never be done overnight. By having an absolute, all or nothing view is unrealistic. I would prefer people to just eat less meat individually for not only their health, but the health of our planet as well. As a society, we have normalized eating meat 2-3 times a day in our meals on average, and not only that, but consuming twice the amount recommended per day to ward off disease. Meat consumption also looks different around the world, with variables such as climate, availability, and culture.
    Secondly, the industrialization of how we produce meat is the largest contributor to climate change. Think about this, where do we get the food to feed the cattle? How much land is being destroyed to create crops that strictly feed cattle alone? We might use 100 acres of corn or soy to feed, 10 acres of cattle, to feed even less people after all is said and done (don’t quote me on those numbers as this is just a example. There are documentaries that state these numbers along with sources). Couldn’t that original amount of land be used to grow plants? You mentioned gas and fuel in everyday life. That’s true. But what about how much fuel and gas is used in the transportation across long distances by way of truck? Supply Chains are vast when it comes to the meat industry. This doesn’t leave out transporting vegetables, but one solution is to buy from local farms, both meat and vegetables. By buying local, you reduce the amount of fuel used, and also get fresher food that support your local farmers. The other problem with industrial meat is the quality. The animals are warehoused and never live a life naturally as they would in the wild or, at least raised on a farm to graze and fertilize soil as intended. Industrial meat animals never leave their small pens and can also be pumped with antibiotics to keep them from getting sick due to the tight conditions. Then you eat that beef. What do you think happens to your body?

    Third, we are the most unhealthiest, fattest, highest anxiety countries in the world. Our diets are horrible, we eat too much, don’t exercise or move enough, and all while throwing away too much. It’s not about cutting out meat one day a week, it’s about making more conscious decisions and learning about where our food comes from, and how food affects our bodies.

    Forth, meat being an essential nutrient is a little far fetched. Yes there are certain nutrients that an animal eats that we get nutrients from, such as B12 . This is actually a bacteria that comes from soil, hence the reason why cows eat grass and dirt and have this in their bodies. It is possible to be on a plant-based diet and get all of your nutrients. It is also possible to eat only a few times a week, if that, and live a very healthy life. Check out the Seventh Day Adventist study on their diet and lifestyle and why they are so healthy.

    Lastly, I appreciate your report, and I am not trying to bash your work. You have some good points in there. I just feel like some aspects were missing in painting this larger scale picture.

    Peace and Blessings
    -Shawn

    • Shawn,

      I appreciate your comments and willingness to engage in this conversation. It is important that we all take a look at our own choices and decide what is best for us. Although the science doesn’t line up with a few of your points I recognize that we have the luxury of choosing our own diets and have many options available to us. Thank you for providing your opinion on the matter, if you’d like to discuss more you are welcome to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to answer any questions or provide relevant sources! (aliciah1221@ufl.edu)

      Happy Eating!
      Alicia Halbritter

      • Regarding “science doesn’t line up with a few of your points” lets not forget that you can find science for any kind of opinion … The alternative solutions provided are not sufficient in my opinion. E.g. your recommendation “respect speed limit to save co2” sounds quite cute when you can also change your car to EV that is charged from solar … Of course your recommendation helps and is a valid point, but this won’t save us from climate change …

        I’d be happy to read further on your discussion … Willing to share with us ?

        • Hi Frank,

          You are correct that the suggestions made above won’t save us from climate change. However, they are simple adjustments that most of the population can make to begin lowering their carbon footprint today without affecting their daily lives. These suggestions help us reach more people and get them in the habit of making small adjustments to their lives in order to help the environment. The points were also used to show how little impact eating meat has your carbon footprint and that consumers should not feel guilty about choosing a high quality nutrient source to feed their families.

          Thanks for engaging in the discussion! We always appreciate feedback on our articles.

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