The environmental impact of our diet (USA Stats only)
Only two percent of the world’s water is fresh water suitable for human use or agriculture. Burgeoning population demands and increasing pollution of groundwater by sewerage, industrial pollution and agricultural nitrates and pesticides will make fresh water a desperately short commodity in the coming century. Livestock production uses more than half of all water consumed for all purposes in the USA. Producing a pound of wheat requires 25 gallons of water while a pound of beef requires 2500 gallons of water. Raising one average steer uses enough water to float a navy destroyer. The Ogallala Aquifer, the major source of water for agriculture in the great plains, is being rapidly depleted primarily by grain crops grown for livestock.
Seventy percent of the total US grain production is consumed by livestock and half of the world grain harvest is consumed by livestock. Sixteen pounds of grain are required to make one pound of beef. One third of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by the U.S. are devoted to the production of livestock. More than 38,000 children die as a result of malnutrition and starvation every day (one every 3.6 seconds) while 66% of US grain exports are consumed by livestock. If Americans reduced their intake of meat by only ten percent; 100,000,000 people could be fed using the land, water and energy that would be freed up from growing livestock feed.
An acre of prime land can produce 10,000 lbs of Green Beans, 20,000 lbs of apples, 30,000 lbs of carrots or 20,000 lbs of potatoes. The same land can produce grain for 250 lbs of beef. Sixty four percent of all cropland is used to produce livestock feed (By contrast, 2% of all US cropland is producing fruits and vegetables.). About 35 pounds of topsoil are lost in the production of one pound of feedlot steak.
Animals raised for food produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population. US livestock produce 86,000 pounds of excrement per second (that’s two trillion pounds per year). The typical adult hog produces urinary and fecal waste equivalent to three adult humans. (There are ten million hogs in North Carolina and only nine million people and the impact on the local infrastructure and environment are disastrous.) The tons of methane produced by the collective digestion of 1.3 billion cows on the planet are a major contribution to the global warming effect.
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