Last year, the journal Science published the most comprehensive study ever done on the damage that farming – particularly animal farming – does to the planet. This massive undertaking looked at over 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covered 40 food products – 90 percent of all that is consumed.
The findings were clear: meat and dairy are an environmental catastrophe. In fact, lead scientist Joseph Poore remarked, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”
With all the incredible plant-based versions of meat and dairy available nowadays, I started wondering just how these products stack up to animal products in regard to their environmental impact. Exactly how much better is a Beyond Burger for planet Earth than a beef burger?
I did some research and was led to a peer-reviewed Life Cycle Analysis done by the University of Michigan. This study specifically looked at the resources needed to produce a quarter-pound Beyond Burger versus a quarter-pound beef burger. The results are astounding.
First let’s talk about water use. Did you know that to produce just one hamburger, it takes more than 600 gallons of water? That’s enough water for a month’s worth of showers. The study found that the Beyond Burger requires 99 percent less water to produce than a beef burger.
Let’s next look at land use. Meat and dairy operations use up to 83 percent of the world’s farmland, even though they only provide 18 percent of the world’s calories and 37 percent of the world’s protein. In stark contrast, the Beyond Burger requires 93% less land than a beef burger to produce. It also has more protein than a beef burger and half the saturated fat.
In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, a study by the Sierra Club found that to produce just one hamburger creates over three pounds of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of driving five miles in a compact car. The Life Cycle Analysis study found that producing a Beyond Burger produces 90 percent less greenhouse gases emissions. It also found that the Beyond Burger requires 46 percent less energy than a beef burger to produce.
So, just to review, when compared to a beef burger, a vegan Beyond Burger uses:
99% less water
93% less land
90% less greenhouse gases
46% less energy
If you can believe it, Americans eat an estimated 50 billion beef burgers a year. That’s three burgers a week per person. The LCA study concluded that if every American replaced just one of these burgers per week with a Beyond Burger, it would be the equivalent of taking 12 MILLION cars off the road and would save enough energy to power 2.3 MILLION homes.
With numbers like these it’s undeniable: There simply is no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist. Instead of expecting someone else to save us, we have to become the heroes we’ve been waiting for – and that means taking a stand against climate change every time we sit down to eat. It’s time to ditch meat for good.