Common potential concerns about beef production and the environment Q & A

Does livestock production account for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions?   

This is a global estimate with no application to the U.S. or other developed countries. Methane from livestock accounts for only 2.4% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2008 report by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Is it true it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef?   

According to a published, peer-reviewed study from the University of California, Davis that looked at all uses, a pound of U.S. beef requires 441 gallons- about 85 gallons for a quarter-pound hamburger. U.S. beef production is highly efficient at producing more food with fewer inputs such as water and feed.   

According to an article in the Journal of Animal Science, total livestock production accounts for just more than 11 percent of all U.S. water use. This includes the water to grow feed for livestock and direct water consumption by livestock.

Does it requires75 gallons of oil to get a steer to harvest?   

According to 2002 analysis from the Colorado School of Mines, the more realistic figure is 13.83 gallons. U.S. ranchers and feeders are committed to producing more food using fewer natural resources, and provide 25% of the world’s beef supply from only 10% of the world’s cattle.

Is organic food or “slow food” better for the environment than “conventional” food?   

No. Modern, efficient beef production results in more pounds of beef utilizing fewer resources than less-efficient production methods. If 1950s technology were used today, we would need an additional 165 million acres to produce the same amount of beef. That’s an area roughly the size of Texas! All beef producers go to great lengths to be good stewards of the environment, regardless of which production method they follow. In fact, 85 percent of all beef farmers and ranchers, regardless of the type of beef they produce, say environmental conservation is important to their success. Additionally, U.S. beef farmers and ranchers are using fewer natural resources to provide more abundant and affordable beef; they supply 25 percent of the world’s beef with just 10 percent of the world’s cattle.

More Information:

Beef Industry Life cycle Assessment

Environmental Impact of Beef Industry 1977-2007

Beef Production and the Environment

Environmental Sustainability Study