“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, [on] every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity . . . The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.”
~ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Livestock’s Long Shadow, 2006
Chapter 1 is devoted completely to the Environmental Costs of Meat and Dairy Consumption
Quotes from the book:
If everyone on Earth were to follow the Western diet, it would take four planet Earths to support the current population of 7 billion.
The more plant-based the diet, the greater the benefits to the environment, the animal population, and our own health.
…the global cattle population of 1.3 billion consumes an amount of calories (chiefly in grains) that could feed 8.7 billion people.
In the US alone, the roughly 10 billion livestock consume an amount of grain that could feed 1 billion people.
An enormous amount of resources–such as water, land, and energy–are devoted to growing crops for farmed animals. Consider the following environmental parameters;
Greenhouse gas emissions:
Let’s examine a beef-based Sloppy Joes with its vegan version in terms of Environmental Savings. We will only replace the animal protein with a plant protein and keep the rest of the recipe the same. (excerpted from Chapter 3)
|Sloppy Joes (4 servings)|
|Traditional Recipe||Vegan Version|
|1 lb (450 grams) ground beef||1 lb (450 grams) firm tofu|
|1 Tbsp oil||1 Tbsp (15 ml) oil|
|1 cup pasta sauce||1 cup (250 ml) pasta sauce|
|3 Roma tomatoes, diced||3 Roma tomatoes, diced|
|1 onion, diced||1 onion, diced|
|2 garlic cloves, minced||2 garlic cloves, minced|
|1 tsp green chilies or Jalapeno pepper, diced||1 tsp (5 ml) green chilies or Jalapeno pepper, diced|
|4 Tbsp ketchup||4 Tbsp (60 ml) ketchup|
|4 Tbsp BBQ sauce||4 Tbsp (60 ml) BBQ sauce|
|4 whole wheat hamburger buns||4 whole wheat or gluten-free hamburger buns|
- Crumble the tofu in a blender, or use a masher to obtain pea-sized crumbles.
- Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the onion, garlic, and tofu until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Drain off excess liquid.
- Add tomatoes, chilies, ketchup, and BBQ sauce. Reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes, so that mixture is heated thoroughly.
- Scoop mixture onto toasted buns.
Environmental Savings (Chapter 3)
|Environmental Parameter||Traditional Recipe||Vegan Version||Environmental Savings (Traditional minus Vegan)|
|1 lb (450 grams) beef||1 lb (450 grams) firm tofu||For recipe||Per serving|
|Water footprint||6,937 liters (1,833 US gal)||257 liters (68 US gal)||6,680 liters of water (1,765 US gal)||1,670 liters per serving (441 US gal)|
|Manure produced||17.5kg (38.5 lbs)||0||17.5 kg of manure (38.5 lbs)||4.4 kg of manure saved per serving (9.7 lbs)|
|GHG CO2e||12.2 kg||0.9 kg||11.3 kg of CO2e||2.8 kg CO2e per serving <=> driving 10.7 km (6.7 miles)|
Replacing only the ground beef with a plant-based protein in the Sloppy Joes recipe results in these enormous Environmental Savings per serving:
- 1670 liters (441 US gal) of water
- 4.4 kg (9.7 lbs) of manure
- enough GHG to drive the average American car 10.7 km (6.7 miles). And this is just for one serving!
You will find other illustrations of Environmental Savings in this book for recipes comparing beef, pork, chicken, dairy, and eggs, with their vegan counterparts in Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6.