Environmental Consequences of Industrialized Beef Production

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My presentation on the environmental consequences of industrialized beef production with a specific focus on North America. Course requirement for the Global Conversation course, Institute for Social & European Studies, Corvinus University of Budapest.

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Environmental Consequences of Industrialized Beef Production

  1. 1. Environmental  Consequences  of   Industrialized  Beef  Produc8on   Renjie  Butalid   Ins8tute  for  Social  &  European  Studies   Kőszeg,  Hungary   Fall  2010  
  2. 2. Overview  •  According  to  the  UN  Food  &   •  In  this  part  of  the   Agriculture  Organiza8on,   presenta8on,  we  will  focus   current  global  meat   our  discussion  on  the   consump8on  is  at   industrialized  produc8on   approximately  280  million   and  consump8on  of  beef  in   tons  per  year1;  this  figure  is   North  America,  and  its   expected  to  double  by  2050   subsequent  environmental   when  the  world’s   effects  through  the   popula8on  is  expected  to   con8nued  prolifera8on  of   reach  9.8  billion.2   concentrated  animal   feeding  opera8ons,  or   factory  farms.  
  3. 3. Industrialized  Beef  Produc:on  in  North  America  •  According  to  the  US  Department  of  Agriculture,  in  2009,  approximately   56.1  million  metric  tons  of  beef  were  consumed  globally,  with  the   largest  consumers  of  beef  in  the  world  being  the  United  States,   followed  by  the  European  Union,  Brazil  and  China.3  •  However,  in  per  capita  terms4,      -­‐  Argen:na  is  the  largest  consumer  of  beef  at  ~65.6  kgs  of  beef  per   person  per  year    -­‐  United  States  is  3rd  at  ~40.7  kgs  of  beef  per  person  per  year    -­‐  Canada  is  6th  at  ~31.7  kgs  of  beef  per  person  per  year    -­‐  Mexico  is  8th  at  ~24.1  kgs  of  beef  per  person  per  year.    •  Since  the  1950’s,  this  increase  in  meat  consump8on  globally  has  been   encouraged  by  the  prolifera8on  of  concentrated  animal  feeding   opera:ons,  or  factory  farms,  with  some  80  percent  of  growth  in  the   livestock  sector  coming  from  mass  industrial  produc8on  systems  that   consume  vast  amounts  of  feed  and  energy.5    
  4. 4. Factory  Farms  &  CaKle  Feed  •  These  factory  farms  are  large,  high-­‐density  facili8es  where  hundreds  to   thousands  of  caale  are  confined  in  small  spaces  and  fed  mainly  on  a  diet   of  grains.  These  grains  range  from  cereal  grains  like  corn,  barley  and   wheat,  to  legume,  hays  (clover,  soybeans,  alfalfa)  and  grass  hays  (coastal   Bermuda,  fescue  and  blue  grass);  6  all  with  the  purpose  of  reducing  costs   for  the  producers  through  the  achievement  of  economies  of  scale.   •  Since  caale  in  these  factory   farms  are  oden  confined  in  very   8ght  spaces,  drugs,  which   include  an8bio8cs,  are  oden   mixed  in  with  the  caale  supply   feed  and  water,  to  promote   growth  and  to  keep  the  caale   from  geeng  sick.    Photo  credit:  hap://www.epa.gov/region7/water/cafo/index.htm    
  5. 5. •  The  con8nued  use,  or  misuse  of  an8bio8cs  such  as  Cephalosporins  as   growth  promoters,  not  only  in  caale  farms  but  in  poultry  and  pork   farms  as  well,  has  led  to  a  drama8c  increase  in  the  resistance  of   an8bio8cs  among  people  in  North  America,  Europe  and  Asia.7  These   an8bio8cs  are  important  to  us  because  they  have  the  ability  to  knock   out  a  wide  range  of  hard-­‐to-­‐treat  human  ailments  such  as  urinary  tract   infec8on  and  pneumonia.  If  we  are  growing  increasingly  resistant  to   an8bio8c  drug  treatment  because  of  the  food  we  eat,  this  poses  a   huge  public  health  risk  for  us  all.  8  Photo  credit:  hap://animalblawg.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/missouri-­‐court-­‐of-­‐appeals-­‐keeps-­‐friends-­‐close-­‐and-­‐cafos-­‐closer/  
  6. 6. •  In  the  beginning  of  the  20th  century,  most  animals  were  pasture-­‐raised  on   family  farms.  However,  by  2003,  82  percent  of  the  caKle  in  the  United   States  alone  were  produced  by  just  four  industrial  producers.9  Some  of   the  main  underlying  factors  behind  this  transi8on  from  small  family  farms   to  large  agribusiness  producers,  include  the  development  of  nitrogen   fer8lizers  as  well  as  the  availability  of  cheap  corn  made  plen8ful  by   government  subsidies  that  guaranteed  a  set  price  for  corn.10  •  At  a  8me  when  land  for  grazing  and  feed  crop  produc8on  occupies  roughly   30  percent  of  the  land  surface  of  the  planet,  the  con8nued  prolifera8on  of   these  concentrated  animal  feeding  opera8ons  will  ul8mately  lead  to  direct   compe88on  for  already  scarce  land,  water  and  other  natural  resources,  not   to  men8on  the  nega8ve  environmental  consequences  arising,  from  loss  of   biodiversity  and  deforesta8on,  to  the  acidifica8on  of  terrestrial  ecosystems   and  emissions  of  greenhouse  gases.11  
  7. 7. Environmental  Consequences  of     Industrialized  Beef  Produc:on  Deforesta:on  and  Biodiversity  Loss  •  As  previously  men8oned,  land  used  in   agricultural  produc:on  occupies   approximately  30  percent  of  the   planet’s  land  surface.  As  meat   demand  increases  worldwide,   including  the  demand  for  beef,  even   more  forests  will  be  cleared  for   addi8onal  livestock  ac8vity  and  crop   produc8on.  As  a  serious  consequence,   na8ve  species  are  being  pushed  out  of   their  habitat  and  biodiversity  is  being   lost.12   Photo  credit:   hap://www.flickr.com/photos/16725630@N00/1524189000/    
  8. 8. Deple:on  of  Water  Resources  •  Aside  from  deforesta8on  and  loss  of  biodiversity,  there  is  also  the   serious  issue  of  water  deple8on  as  a  result  of  con8nued  industrialized   beef  produc8on.  Approximately  2,500  gallons  of  water  are  required  to   produce  a  pound  of  beef,  compared  to  22  gallons  to  produce  a  pound   of  tomatoes.13  This  figure  takes  into  account  the  amount  of  water   needed  to  harvest  the  grain  to  be  fed  to  the  caale,  the  water  the  caale   need  to  drink,  as  well  as  the  water  required  at  slaughter.  Major  Contributor  to  Greenhouse  Gas  Emissions  •  According  to  a  report  published  by  the  UN  FAO  in  2006,  livestock   produc8on  causes  18  percent  of  all  global  manmade  greenhouse  gas   emissions,  which  is  more  than  all  transporta8on  services  combined.14   This  figure  takes  into  account  the  fossil  fuels  required  in  feed   produc8on;  carbon  dioxide  emissions  from  forests  cut  down  for   addi8onal  livestock  ac8vity  and  crop  produc8on;  carbon  dioxide   emissions  from  the  transporta8on  of  animal  products;  and  nitrous   oxide  and  methane  emissions  from  caale  belching  and  manure.  
  9. 9. Air  and  Water  Pollu:on  •  Livestock  raised  in  factory  farms,  including  caale,  produce  an  enormous   amount  of  manure  most  of  which  is  stored  in  large  manure  holding  lagoons.   The  runoff  of  this  waste  into  surface  and  groundwater  has  contaminated   drinking  water  in  many  areas  across  North  America;  some  manure  lagoons   have  also  given  way,  sending  millions  of  gallons  of  raw  waste  into  streams   and  estuaries.15  The  runoff  of  manure,  which  contains  nitrogen  and   phosphorus,  eventually  reaches  larger  water  bodies  where  they  can  cause   eutrophica:on,  the  prolifera:on  and  ensuing  death  of  algae  robbing  the     the  water  of  oxygen,  crea8ng  dead  zones  where  no  living  creatures  can   survive.16   Led:  Aerial  view  of  working  hog  manure  holding  lagoon  in   Iowa,  USA.   Photo  credit:   hap://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/indiana-­‐ taxpayers-­‐clean-­‐up-­‐abandoned-­‐manure-­‐lagoon.php    
  10. 10. Are  there  sustainable  alterna:ves?  •  Given  all  of  the  nega8ve   environmental  consequences   surrounding  concentrated  animal   feeding  opera8ons,  do  sustainable   alterna8ves  exists?  •  The  answer  is  yes,  sustainable   alterna8ves  to  the  industrialized   produc8on  system  of  beef  do  exist,   such  as  smart  pasture  opera8ons   (SPOs)  producing  pasture-­‐raised   beef.17    •  In  fact,  the  demand  for  pasture-­‐ raised  beef  is  growing  in  the  US,  as   is  the  demand  for  pasture-­‐raised   milk  and  cheese  products.18     Photo  credit:   hap://organicgarden.blogspot.com/2010/03/grass-­‐fed-­‐ cows-­‐save-­‐earth.html    
  11. 11. •  Smart  pasture  opera8ons  take  advantage  of  low-­‐cost  grass  grown  on   carefully  managed  pastures,  requiring  less  maintenance,  energy,   pes8cides,  and  water  than  industrial  beef  produc8on.  The  smaller   amount  of  manure  produced  also  fer8lizes  the  land,  avoiding  water  and   air  pollu8on.  Grass-­‐fed  caale  are  also  healthier  and  more  gene8cally   diverse,  helping  to  prevent  the  spread  of  disease.  In  addi8on,  grass-­‐fed   beef  is  healthier  to  eat;  grass-­‐fed  beef  and  dairy  products  have  less  total   fat  and  higher  levels  of  good  omega-­‐3  faay  acids  compared  to  those   from  animals  fed  a  grain  diet.19  •  And  finally,  on  an  individual  consumer  level,  one  way  that  we  can   reduce  the  environmental  impact  of  the  industrial  produc8on  of   livestock,  is  to  simply  reduce  our  meat  consump8on,  as  recommended   by  Dr.  Rajendra  Pachauri,  chair  of  the  UN  Intergovernmental  Panel  on   Climate  Change.20  In  addi8on,  according  to  researchers  at  the  University   of  Chicago,  if  Americans  were  to  reduce  their  meat  consump8on  by  just   20  percent,  it  would  be  as  if  everyone  switched  from  a  standard  sedan   to  an  ultra-­‐efficient  hybrid  vehicle.21  
  12. 12. References  •  1  U.N.  Food  and  Agriculture  Organiza8on  (FAO),  “Meat  and  Meat  Products,”  Food  Outlook,  June   2008.  •  2  UN  FAO  –  Food  Needs  and  Popula8on  hap://www.fao.org/docrep/x0262e/x0262e23.htm    •  3  USDA  Economic  Research  Service  hap://www.ers.usda.gov/news/BSECoverage.htm    •  4  Marfrig  Group  Meat  Sector   hap://www.mzweb.com.br/marfrig/web/conteudo_en.asp? idioma=1&8po=5911&img=2904&conta=44  •  5  European  Commission  Green  Week  –  2.9  Biodiversity  and  meat  consump8on   hap://ec.europa.eu/environment/greenweek/session/29-­‐biodiversity-­‐and-­‐meat-­‐consump8on.html  •  6  Lawrence,  John  et  al.,  Beef  Feedlot  Systems  Manual  Iowa  Beef  Centre,  Iowa  State  University  2006  •  7  Miller  McCune  Playing  Chicken  with  An<bio<c  Resistance  August  2009   hap://www.miller-­‐mccune.com/health/playing-­‐chicken-­‐with-­‐an8bio8c-­‐resistance-­‐3533/    •  8  The  Pew  Charitable  Research  Trusts  An<bio<c-­‐Resistant  Bacteria  in  Animals  and  Unnecessary   Human  Health  Risks   hap://www.savean8bio8cs.org/resources/PewHumanHealthEvidencefactsheet7-­‐14FINAL.pdf    •  9  Cassuto,  David  N.  “ The  CAFO  Hothouse:  Climate  Change,  Industrial  Agriculture  and  the  Law”   Animals  &  Society  Ins8tute  Policy  Paper  2010  •  10  Ibid  •  11  European  Commission  Green  Week  –  2.9  Biodiversity  and  meat  consump8on   hap://ec.europa.eu/environment/greenweek/session/29-­‐biodiversity-­‐and-­‐meat-­‐consump8on.html    
  13. 13. References  (con8nued)  •  12  Ibid  •  13  Robbins,  John.  2,500  Gallons  All  Wet?  EarthSave  Healthy  People  Healthy  Planet   hap://www.earthsave.org/environment/water.htm    •  14  UN  FAO,  Livestock’s  Long  Shadow,  Environmental  Issues  and  Op8ons  (Rome:  2006)  •  15  Indiana  Taxpayers  Pay  to  Clean  Up  Abandoned  Manure  Lagoon  May  2009 hap://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/05/indiana-­‐taxpayers-­‐clean-­‐up-­‐abandoned-­‐manure-­‐ lagoon.php    •  16  Gurian-­‐Sherman,  Doug  –  CAFOs  Uncovered  –  The  Untold  Costs  of  Confined  Animal  Feeding   Opera<ons  Union  of  Concerned  Scien8sts  April  2008  •  17    Union  of  Concerned  Scien8sts  Pasture-­‐based  Ques<ons  FAQ   hap://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solu8ons/smart_pasture_opera8ons/greener-­‐ pastures-­‐faqs.html    •  18  Na8onal  Sustainable  Agriculture  Informa8on  Service  CaVle  Produc<on:  Considera<ons  for   Pasture-­‐based  beef  and  dairy  Producers  2006  •  19    Union  of  Concerned  Scien8sts  Pasture-­‐based  Ques<ons  FAQ   hap://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solu8ons/smart_pasture_opera8ons/greener-­‐ pastures-­‐faqs.html    •  20    UN  says  eat  less  meat  to  curb  global  warming  The  Guardian  UK  September  2008   hVp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/07/food.foodanddrink  •  21  Eshel,  Gidon  and  Pamela  A.  Mar8n.  Diet,  Energy  and  Global  Warming  Earth  Interac8ons  Volume   10  (2006)  

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