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Environmental Impact Of Meat Consumption

Executive Summary

This report will highlight the nationwide statistics on cost, efficiency, and environmental impact of meat consumption. Online research and an analysis of the meat market provided insight on how to cut back the meat market to improve the lives of people and the environment they live in. This paper shows what the current consumption trends cost and how much they impact the environment. The experiment shows that even a very small reduction in the proportion of meat per meal will be mutually beneficial for cost and the environment. Moving forward, the amount of meat being consumed should be smaller. Introduction

The meat industry in America is one of the largest contributors to the economy. From the moment an animal to be eaten is born to the time it finally reaches a plate, it has been through a nationwide process employing millions of people. This process, however, is becoming problematic because of the strain it is putting on our environment. As public outlook on the environment is turning increasingly “green” and the rate we burn fossil fuels increases, Actions must be taken to provide solutions for the environment and meat industry workers alike.

The production, sales, and consumption of meat adds over 5 million jobs to American workers, feeds over 200 billion dollars worth of wages, and generates over 1 trillion dollars for the economy annually (NAMI, 2016). Per capita, consumers buy over 200 pounds of meat per year which amounts to almost 1,000 dollars spent on just that (NCC, 2016). Environmentally, Livestock creates 1000 metric tons of methane waste per year (EPA, 2015).

Findings: Consumption of Meat in America

Economic Impact of Meat

The process of producing meat from the farm to a grill is a long and nationwide process. The industry creates 5.44 million jobs when supplier and induced impact are taken into account and about $1.02 trillion dollars of total economic output. This is estimated to make up 5.6% of Americas GDP (Dunham & Assoc). The meat industry is a massive contributor to the economy and must continue to thrive as the immediate impacts are overwhelmingly positive. When taking a look at long term impacts, however, the rate at which the country consumes meat is bluntly unsustainable. The strain that this one industry is putting on the entire earth could end up costing more than it is worth to produce. If America remains “business as usual” in total emissions the country could be facing losses worth 1.8% of GDP on a low end and up to 3.6% on a more realistic outlook (NRDC 2008). These figures only take into account 4 main areas that will be impacted by climate change. These areas are hurricane damages, real estate losses, energy sector costs, and water costs.

Environmental Impact of Meat

As meat drives the economy, it is also driving climate change at a rate most do not even comprehend yet. Models on greenhouse gas emissions are converted into carbon dioxide equivalents to allow for comparison. Therefore, carbon dioxide has an emissions potential of 1. The meat industry obviously relies on animals to obtain a product. Animals produce waste and a lot of farming is needed just to feed them. In fact, Animals produce a majority of the methane globally and the gas emits 1000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses per year. Carbon, an emission largely created by transportation and industry produces over 6000 metric tons. This is the statistic most commonly associated to emissions however it does not give an accurate representation of the situation. While carbon has an emissions potential of 1, methane has a potential of 25. One ton of methane is the same as 25 tons of carbon dioxide. Methane is polluting the environment at an alarmingly faster rate than carbon even though there is physically less of it in the atmosphere. As transportation and industry are becoming greener by the minute methane should be the countries main focus when referring to climate change (EPA 2015)

Findings: A Simple Solution

If Americans could simply cut the piece of meat they would normally eat in half and replace it with an equal amount of a grain or veggie, we would be looking at a much healthier environmental outlook. Currently Livestock production accounts for the most methane emissions in the US (EPA, 2015). A single cow can produce 66 to 132 gallons of methane in one day as they by far are the biggest contributors. (Ross, 2013). With over 30.5 million cows used for meat in the US this sum up to over 4 bllion gallons of methane nationwide, every day. If Americans can eat even a third of the meat they currently do every day that would result in a third of the cows. That is 1.32 million gallons of methane rather than 4 billion. 75% less methane than is currently being put into the atmosphere.


After analysis the results determine that only a small reduction per meal can greatly reduce the environmental impact of the meat industry. The country is consuming a product that has the most potential to harm our environment at an alarming rate. A reduction of each household’s consumption would not harm the current economic state of America as other food products such as grain and plant based would serve as replacements. Recommendations

This study has show what reducing your daily consumption of meat could do for the planet. It is one simple way each person can make an impact. If meat could just turn into a side on every dish rather than the main ingredient our consumption of the wasteful product would regulate. Not only would the environment benefit but it would not be surprising if the nation’s health as a whole increased. Plant based products are rich in nutrients while meat can cause heart and weight problems when not regulated (Johns Hopkins).

This report is not trying to end meat consumption all together. The industry is just too big of a player in the American economy is one simple way each individual American can have a direct impact on the well being of the environment we live in. Our current consumption will come at a heavy cost and very simple and easily attainable measures can be taken to avoid environmental doom.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.