The Environmental Impact of the Food we Eat.


On my wall next to my desk is my inspiration wall, covered with photos and print outs of inspiring work, people, family and this little number from Diet for a New America, John Robbins. It reminds me of the big impact of food we eat, not only to ourselves but also to the planet. Rather than growing the crops, feeding them to the animals, letting them live a while and then eating the animals; feeding the plants directly to humans saves: 90% of the energy  (the animals use up loads growing, shitting, breathing etc), 99% of the carbohydrate and 100% of the fibre.

This means that 20 vegans can be fed on the same amount of land as one meat-eater and that an all-vegan Britain could be self-sufficient on 25% of its agricultural land.

Global Warming

  • Main cause of the Greenhouse Effect; burning of fossil fuels to release carbon dioxide
  • Calories of fossil fuel expended to produce one calorie of protein from: beef- 78, soy beans- 2.
  • Fossil fuels needed to produce a meat centred diet compared to a vegan one: 50 times more
  • Second most important greenhouse gas: methane
  • Litres of methane farted and belched per cow per day: 200
  • Current cattle population: 1.3 billion

Ozone Layer As loads more crops need to produced to make meat, loads more fertilizers have to be used as well. These contain nitrates, which damage the ozone layer- as do methane farts from cattle. 

Acid Rain Nitrogen compounds in slurry are one of the main contributors to acid rain- e.g. in the Netherlands, 45% of all acidification comes from agricultural practises.

Deforestation Over 150 acres of tropical rainforest are cleared every minute, much of it for cattle grazing, beef production and soya to feed animals. The more people who are vegan, the less land is needed for food production and the more existing farmland can be used, rather than rainforests.

Desertification More than two-thirds of US topsoil has been lost to date, 85% of which is associated with livestock rearing.

Slurry 200 million tonnes of shit a year is produced by Britain's livestock. Slurry is 100 times more destructive to fish and plant life than human sewage and also damages human health via drinking water. 

Water use Livestock consumes 80% of water supplies worldwide. Dairy cows need 70 litres a day, humans need 3. 

Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of; tomatoes- 23, potatoes- 24, wheat- 25, milk- 130, eggs- 544, pork- 1630, beef- 5214.