Sunday, April 20, 2008

Study on beef and the creation of greenhouse gases

According to this article, a study was done at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA and they found that the green house gases produced by the consumption of beef is higher than the consumption of getting non-local produce. I bring this up because I often wonder if buying produce that is grown far away is justified by the creation of greenhouse gases. I wonder if I should just stick with local produce. But it seems that the mere fact that I do not eat beef does seem to, at least sort of, balances out my consumption of non-local produce. I still would advocate for the consumption of local produce, but it is really interesting how much greenhouse gases are produced just from cows. They reported that if Americans cut out approximately a quarter of the average 240 calories they eat a day (damn, that is a lot of calories), it would have the same affect as going completely local. So the next time you are thinking about picking up that steak or hamburger at the grocery store, maybe you should look at the chicken, fish or just getting some veggies. Also, the study did find that, "[r]eplacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year." But I do wonder if there is any difference in buying local beef over beef that has to be transported. I know around here at the farmers markets you can buy beef from local farmers and this beef is, of course, not traveling nearly as far. I would have to assume that this would be better as the cows are still producing the same amount, on a per cow basis, of methane, but there are less cows at these local farms than large corporate farms and there is much less transportation going into bringing the dead cow to you. So if you are going to eat beef, try to make sure you are supporting local beef farms. In the end though, I guess I am not the best person to talk about beef since I don't eat it and haven't since I was in high school.


Little Merry Sunshine said...

That's very interesting. I rarely eat red meat, although I certainly enjoy it. I probably have red meat a couple of times per month and then it's pretty much only when I dine out.

Adam said...

Actually, I think it has a lot more nuance than just "only eat local produce" because it depends on how the produce actually gets to the market or grocery store.

I read some studies talking about how if the local produce got transported to the market by diesel truck, that would be much worse than if the equivalent produce was transported by train (at least I think the example given was by train). Anyway, just something else to cloud the debate :).

Of course, most meat expands much more energy to produce than veggies. The book Fast Food Nation has a lot of details about the amount of energy that is required for various types of meat.