So what causes more damage to our earth? Our hamburgers or cars?

So as bike commuters we all seem to be aware of global warming and the impact that driving cars has on it. Most of us seem to be “pro-earth” and concerned about making a difference.

I was forwarded an article a few weeks back on the subject of bicycling vs meat eating. In Nov of 2006 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a study stating that animal agriculture causes more greenhouse gas emissions then all the world’s transportation combined!

Here are a few key points from the study:

-In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet. Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder.

The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.

-The world is moving towards increasing problems of freshwater shortage, scarcity and depletion, with 64 percent of the world’s population expected to live in water-stressed basins by 2025.
The livestock sector is a key player in increasing water use, accounting for over 8 percent of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feedcrops. It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead? zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures. Global figures are not available but in the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55 percent of erosion and sediment, 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.

So what does this all mean? Well our burgers and steaks are causing quite a demand. To meet this need we tear down forrest to build cattle farms. We pump these cattle with anti-biotics, we spray their food with chemicals, slaughter them and I don’t even want to mention where their poop ends up. This poop is releasing all this gas into the air! And it’s a lot of poop – about 120lbs a day for a well fed cow! This affects the coastal areas, coral reefs, fresh water resources, animal species, and ulitmately us. There is a lot of news lately surrounding the climate changes and global warming – and all of this is connected. This is what is stated by the United Nations report in the Executive Summary:

“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency. Major reductions in impact could be achieved at reasonable cost.?

So I found this study to be very interesting. That our demand for meat causes more problems for our earth then our cars. We talk often of doing our part for the environment by riding our bikes, but hardly ever mention our diets as being a factor. Now this may not be everyones motivation for riding their bike. Some of us just love to ride.

Now don’t get me wrong – my husband still loves a good bbq. But this is some real thought provoking info. I am not expecting the world to stop eating it’s steak but we should definitely consider the amount of meat we are consuming and the impact it is having on our earth. Don’t forget also organic alternatives. If you can’t give up your meat organic meats are a better alternative. I definitely encourage you to read through the full report before sending your hate mail! Click here for the full report.


  1. RL Policar

    man that’s crazy. I had no idea…but then again after watching Fast Food Nation…I can believe it.

    That sucks about the cows…cuz they’re soooo cute!

  2. M Schlossman

    Reading this made me wonder what will be the next screw up humans do to wreck our environment.

    All I can say is give me a break!!!
    If we all stop eating meat to save the planet because of “cow gas” the next item on the banned list will be beans and cabbage. I can’t speak for everyone, but those two vegetables create more “people gas” than any other veggies.

    We all need to be more conscious of the environment but let’s get real.

  3. Moe

    Please, don’t ban the beans!!! What’s a mexican to do!!????

  4. RL Policar

    umm…Mr. Schlossman…you forgot broccoli. But then again everything gives me gas!

  5. Gene (vegetarian biker)

    Giving up meat is not that difficult. I stopped eating meat 4.5 years ago; I thought it would be a major transition and sacrifice but it was remarkably easy. I eat better than I ever did.

  6. phil

    That’s amazing.About half of what I eat is vegetarian and I ride a bike so maybe a multi -approach will be the key to the reduction of these harmful gases rather than banning certain types of food completely.

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