Climate change and the meat we eat

November 2, 2013 Edited by  
Filed under Meat, Protein

How many folks use energy efficient light bulbs? Anybody drive a hybrid car? Who makes efforts to reduce, re-use, and recycle? Good, because we need all the help we can get! Climate change is official and we’re all responsible and/or affected to some degree (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013).

This topic is related is related to food in two distinct ways: crops and meat. With regard to the former, rising temperatures are expected to negatively impact global production to the tune of 2% per decade for the rest of this century (Gillis, 2013). This at a time when food prices and availability are already critical issues. The good news is that it’s not too late to take action.

That’s where meat comes in. No matter how many energy efficient light bulbs you use or hybrid cars you drive, eating less meat may be the most environmentally-friendly action you can take part in. From the inputs required to produce livestock feed (e.g., diesel fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, water, and land) to the greenhouse gases emitted from the manure that comes out the other end (e.g. methane), meat takes a significant toll on the climate. According to the Environmental Working Group (2011), here’s a summary of how eating less meat stacks up against other climate-saving actions over the course of a year:

  • If you eat one less burger a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time.
  • If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.
  • If your four-person family skips steak once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for nearly three months.
  • If everyone in the United States ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

It’s not necessary to become a vegetarian in order to save the planet, although that certainly wouldn’t hurt. Other positive actions you could take part in include eating fewer meat and dairy products, eating “greener” meats, eating more plants, and wasting less meat.

Food for thought

Would you and your family consider taking part in Meatless Mondays? What types of meats are better or worse for the environment? What types of plants are considered complete and/or complementary proteins? What are some health benefits associated with eating less meat? Check out the report by the Environmental Working Group for answers to these questions and more.


Environmental Working Group (2011). “The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health”. Accessed November 2, 2013:

Gillis, Justin (2013). “Climate Change Seen Posing Risk to Food Supplies.” The New York Times, November 1. Accessed November 2, 2013.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013). “Fifth Assessment Report: The Physical Science Basis”. Accessed November 2, 2013.



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