Where’s the Beef: A guest blog by Caitlin Sanders


Fifty years ago, the average person ate about 45 pounds of meat in a year. Today, that number is up over 90 pounds. The meat industry has grown rapidly into a well-oiled, money-making machine.

This February will mark my 6th full year as a vegetarian. I initially stopped eating meat, because I couldn’t bear the thought of cute, fuzzy animals being killed at my expense. As I have gotten older, I learned from science classes, books, and movies like Food Inc. that the meat industry has grown so big, that it is having detrimental effects on our earth and the quality of the food we are eating.

Here are some statistics that might shock you:

  • Percentage of human-influenced nitrous oxide* generated by livestock: 65% (* Nitrous oxide has nearly 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.)
  • Transportation and livestock production together account for 31 percent of overall greenhouse gas emissions
  • Over 2 billion tons of cropland are lost to erosion in the US each year due to animal production
  • 2,000 pound of grain are needed to support the production of food and livestock products necessary to sustain one person per year compared with 400 pounds when those grains are consumed directly.
  • Livestock production accounts for 30 percent of the surface of the planet
  • Average American diet produces more than 15 pounds of CO2 per day which equals 5,600 pounds of CO2 emissions per person per year.
  • A vegan diet results in eliminating 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions annually, or eight pounds per day, when compared with a non-vegan diet.

Also, because the consumption of meat has turned into a huge industry, production and profit is essentially based on the ability quickly get animals from birth to market. This situation compromises the quality of the meat you buy in the grocery store. There are a lot more hormones used to help animals mature quickly, and they are typically much less lean than in the past.

Another plus of a vegetarian diet – you get to eat at delicious vegetarian restaurants like The Grit and cook with food that has hilarious names like “chick’n” and “soy chorizo.”

*Statics courtesy of: UN, Food and Agriculture Organization, M.E. Ensminger, former chair of the Animal Sciences Department, Washington State University, Eshel G, and Martin P. Diet, Energy and Global Warming. Earth Interactions 10:1-17; 2006, and Center for Science in the Public Interest.

*Photo courtesy of  Joost J. Bakker/Flickr

-Caitlin Sanders

Caitlin Sanders is a senior at the University of Georgia. She is a public relations major graduating in May.


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