Discovery Guides Areas


The Environmental Impact of Meat

(Released January 2012)

podcast link 
  by Ethan Goffman  


Key Citations






Despite meat’s large contribution to global warming, environmentalists have long neglected it, preferring to concentrate on land preservation, the impact of automobiles, and alternative energy. Worried about their reputation as messengers of gloom, environmentalists have been wary of treading into people’s diets, among the most personal of lifestyle choices. "People get very upset when they feel they are being told what to eat," explains one analyst (Adler).

With the ascendance of animal rights, however, such apprehension seems to be diminishing. Taking meat off the table is no longer taboo. Explains the Environmental Working Group, “If everyone in the U.S. 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."
Sources of dietary energy consumption
The predictable increase in animal product proportions on the plates of people living in developing countries will bring new challenges to global agriculture.

Organic and free range farming is one suggested remedy to the ills of factory farms. Yet such a solution is unlikely to feed the 7 billion—and growing—people who inhabit the Earth. One commentator explains, “High-yield farming has allowed everyone to eat. Think about that. If we go away from it, it may improve the welfare of the animal, it may even be better for the environment, but I don’t want to go back to China in 1918. I’m talking about starving people” (qtd. in Foer). If we want to feed a hungry world we cannot go back to the family farm; yet, factory farming is proving environmentally disastrous with questionable results for people’s health. A better solution is to greatly reduce the amount of meat one eats and to switch to lower impact animals, such as chicken as well as fish low on the food chain.

© 2012, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals

  1. Adler, Ben. "Are Cows Worse Than Cars?." American Prospect 12(2008):28. eLibrary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  2. “Adults' daily protein intake much more than recommended.” NCHS Press Room. 3 Mar. 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  3. Allison, Richard. “Organic chicken production criticised for leaving a larger carbon footprint.” Poultry World. 1 Mar. 2007. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  4. Anonymous. "How Green Is My Diet?." Natural Life. 01 Sep. 2007: 7. eLibrary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  5. Avery, Dennis. “Confined Livestock Better for the Planet.” Center for Global Food Issues. 6 Jul. 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
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  7. Clark, Brett and Rebecca Clausen. "The Oceanic Crisis: Capitalism and the Degradation of Marine Ecosystems." Monthly Review 3(2008):91. eLibrary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  8. Eriksen, Jørgen, Søren O. Petersen and Sven G. Sommer. “The Fate of Nitrogen in Outdoor Pig Production.” Agronomie 22.7-8 (2002): 863-867. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  9. Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Kindle.
  10. Fromson, Daniel. “Bug Nuggets.” Atlantic Sept. 2011: 26-28. Print.

  11. Goodyear, Dana. “Grub: Must We East Insects?” New Yorker 15 & 22 Aug. 2011: 38-46. Print.
  12. Griesbauer, Laura. “Methylmercury Contamination in Fish and Shellfish.” ProQuest Discovery Guides. Feb. 2007. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.
  13. Hamerschlag, Kari. A Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health: What You Eat Matters. Environmental Working Group, 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.
  14. Hamerschlag, Kari and Kumar Venkat. A Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health: What You Eat Matters. Lifecycle Assesments [sic]: Methodology & Results. Environmental Working Group, 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

  15. Manning, Richard. "The Amazing Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat." Mother Earth News. 01 Apr. 2009: 48. eLibrary. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  16. Miller, Dale. “Peeling Away the Layers of Pork’s Carbon Footprint.” National Hog Farmer 55.3: (2010), 8-10. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.
  17. Potter, Grant. “Pork without a pig: scientists attempt to grow artificial meat in a lab.” Worldwatch Institute. 13 Dec. 2011. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  18. Rastogi, Nina Shen. “The Kindest Cut: Which Meat Harms Our Planet the Least?” Slate .28 Apr. 2009. Web. 13 Dec. 2011.
  19. Steinfeld, Henning, Pierre Gerber, Tom Wassenaar, Vincent Castel, Mauricio Rosales and Cees de Haan. “Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 29 Nov. 2006. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.
  20. Vansickle, Joe. “Unveiling the Carbon Footprint Model.” National Hog Farmer 56.5: (2011), 46-47. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.