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  • It’s time to confront a major threat to our global environment: cows. Yupturns

  • out that livestock are a major contributor to greenhouse gas pollution. Right up there

  • with cars, planes and trains.

  • And at the rate were producing beef worldwide, emissions from cowsalong with other harmful

  • practices in beef productionthreaten to mess up our climate, land and water. Big

  • time.

  • On average, Americans eat three times more meat than people in other countries. From

  • the end of World War II to the mid-1970s, beef consumption per person doubled. The U.S.

  • is now the largest beef producer in the world. Our beef industry is a powerhouse worth $74

  • billion a year and providing millions of jobs.

  • Today, more and more Americans are choosing chicken and pork, even tofu. But much of the

  • meat we eat is still beef.

  • Let’s look at an all-American food: the hamburger. On average, we eat about three

  • burgers per week. So let’s see: If all 313 million Americans eat three burgers per week,

  • that’s 156 burgers per person per year. All together, that’s more than 48 billion

  • burgers every year.

  • A quarter-pounder at a fast food joint costs 3 or 4 bucks. That’s pretty cheap. But what

  • we don’t pay for at the counter, we end up paying for in other ways. What are the

  • hidden costs?

  • First of all, cows take up a lot of space. Worldwide, livestock use 30 percent of the

  • earth's entire land areathat’s counting pastures and land used to grow grain for feed.

  • We use about eight times as much land for feeding animals as for feeding humans. And

  • in places like Brazil, acres of forest are still being cleared for livestockwhich

  • creates pollution and also removes a perfect sponge for absorbing carbon dioxide.

  • And did someone mention water? It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pound

  • of grain-fed beefthat’s about four times the amount for chicken and more than

  • 10 times the amount for a pound of wheat.

  • Why does it take so much land and water to feed cows? Well, for one thing, cows eat a

  • lot.

  • During the first six months, a calf eats and eats and eats. When it’s about 700 pounds,

  • it’s sold at auctionusually to a feedlot, which is like a very crowded cow city.

  • At the feedlot, the cow continues to eat and eat and eat. At most feedlots, cows eat a

  • mixture of soy and corn.

  • This whole feed system’s pretty new. Before the 1970s, cows ate mostly grass. Then Congress

  • passed a farm bill that changed everything. The government started paying farmers to grow

  • feed crops like corn and soy. It also helped pay for more fertilizer. So, voila: Now corn

  • is in everything from sodas to cereal. And most of the country’s 90 million cows now

  • get corn for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • Unfortunately, cows are built to digest grass. Corn can make them bloat with gas, and cows

  • make a lot of gas.

  • This is no joke.

  • See, cows are ruminantsmeaning they create methane gas when they digest food. Chicken

  • and pigs don’t. Methane has 21 times more climate-changing power than CO2. In America,

  • cows produce more greenhouse gas than 22 million cars per year.

  • America’s cows create about 500 million tons of manure in a year. That’s three times

  • as much as we humans do. Cow manure also creates nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the global

  • warming effect of CO2. Cow manure is responsible for two-thirds of all the nitrous oxide pollution

  • in the world.

  • There’s another source of nitrous oxide in a cow’s life cycle: fertilizer. We Americans

  • use 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer to grow feed for our cows.

  • When runoff from fertilizer and manure flow into rivers, and then to the ocean, they create

  • huge algae blooms, which suck the oxygen out of the water and leave dead zones where no

  • life can survive.

  • Anyway, back to the feedlot. Once the cows are fattened up, they head to the slaughterhouse.

  • Slaughterhouses create about 30 million pounds of contaminants a yearmainly nitrates

  • and ammonia used to disinfect meat.

  • From the slaughterhouse, the beef is shipped to big processing centers, where California

  • beef is mixed with Texas beef and Colorado beef. One burger patty can contain the DNA

  • of more than a thousand cows. That means a single case of E. coli could easily spread

  • to thousands of burgers. Trucking all that beef around creates pollution, too.

  • This isn't an exact science, and the numbers vary depending on how the cows were raised.

  • But a single quarter-pounder clocks in at aboutpounds of greenhouse gases. That

  • might not sound like much, but with Americans eating three burgers per week, that’s more

  • than 158 million tons of greenhouse gases per yearabout the same amount of greenhouse

  • gas as 34 coal-fired power plants.

  • It’s not the cow’s fault. It’s the system weve created to mass-produce beef that’s

  • the problem. Too many burgers take a toll on the environment. They can take a toll on

  • your body, too.

  • This is the recommended daily diet. And this is how most Americans actually eat. We eat

  • way too much meat, grains, fat and sugar, and not enough fruits and vegetables.

  • Many studies show that eating too much red meat can lead to heart disease, high blood

  • pressure and, in some cases, diabetes. The hidden costs add up.

  • One research group figured the cost just in greenhouse gases, water for growing cattle

  • feed and health care at about $1.51 for every burger. Multiply that by the 48 billion burgers

  • Americans eat every year, and that’s more than $72 billion. We don’t pay it at the

  • store or at the fast food joint. But we pay it in other ways.

  • So what can we do?

  • Well, we don’t have to give up meat to change our impact. Cutting out just one burger per

  • week would remove as much greenhouse gas pollution as taking your car off the road for 350 miles.

  • If all Americans ate no meat or cheese one day a week, it would have the same climate-change

  • prevention effect as taking 7.6 million cars off the road for one year.

  • And while it's more expensive, grass-fed beef does less damage to the environment.

  • Even the smallest choices make a big differenceto the environment, to our neighbors,

  • to our health. In the U.S., people are starting to eat less meat. But the rest of the world

  • is eating more. Just imagine: What if all 1.3 billion people in China ate three burgers

  • a weeklike we do?

  • Could our planet keep up?

It’s time to confront a major threat to our global environment: cows. Yupturns

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B1 beef greenhouse meat cow gas pollution

The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers

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    yiwen0820 posted on 2013/08/21
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