Meat: An Environment Killer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 30, 2009
We’ve all seen our share of scientists in white coats, explaining what global warming is, why it’s dangerous, and what we can do to stop it. We encounter protests against fossil fuels and auto emissions. But the one industry that produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, ships, planes, and trucks in the world combined, according to, has carefully avoided this scrutiny. The meat industry is an often-overlooked factor in environmental destruction, existing unnoticed as a major source of deforestation, wasted natural resources, and pollution.

Rainforests hold a wealth of plant and animal life. Trees are natural air filters, pulling harmful carbon dioxide from the air and converting it to oxygen. The meat industry, particularly cattle ranching, kills millions of acres of rainforest each year.

Just one quarter-pound hamburger requires the clearing of six yards of rainforest and the destruction of 165 pounds of living matter, including 20 to 30 plant species, 100 insect species, and dozens of birds, mammals, and reptiles, according to Small amounts of beef in an individual’s diet soon add up and do great harm to the environment.

Cattle farming turns fertile land into barren desert, threatening or eliminating more plant species in the U.S. than any other cause. Livestock grazing can be a huge threat to endangered species and may contribute to extinctions.

There is no doubt that the meat industry causes immense, irreversible harm to the earth’s rainforests. But this is not the only victim of the meat industry. Meat consumption also produces a massive amount of waste.

Four hundred and forty-one gallons of water is required for each pound of cattle raised, compared to just 14 gallons to grow a pound of grain, according to Three days of a typical non-vegetarian diet requires as much water as the average person uses showering for an entire year. An individual can save more than 3,700 gallons of water per day by eating a plant-based diet. Ogallala, the largest aquifer in America, is depleted by 12 trillion gallons a year, mostly due to soaring meat production. Besides draining our water supply, meat production leads to food shortages as well.

World hunger is a severe problem, with millions of men, women, and children going hungry each day. Most people do not realize that not eating meat could relieve starvation worldwide. Meat production takes up 70 percent of the world’s agricultural land. A single acre of farmland can, over a year, produce 250 pounds of beef or 40,000 potatoes. Yet it is not only land usage that prevents food from getting to the people who need it most. Twenty percent of the world’s population (1.4 billion people) could be fed with the grain and soy beans currently consumed by U.S. cattle alone. By adopting a vegetarian diet, individuals could cut the amount of land used to produce their food by a magnitude of ten.

Another unpleasant side effect of meat production is the pollution it produces. Animal agriculture creates five tons of waste per person over a typical lifetime in the U.S., according to That’s 87,000 pounds of waste each second. Animal waste from factory farms seeps into groundwater, contaminating it. Chicken, hog, and cattle manure has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated water in 17 states. The EPA reports that pollution from livestock farming is a leading cause of water contamination in the U.S., killing marine life and making drinking water unsafe.

Meat production is also a major cause of global carbon dioxide and methane pollution. These greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Colossal amounts of fossil fuel are used to grow food for livestock, dispose of remains, and transport the meat. Cows are a major cause of methane pollution because their waste contains large amounts of the gas. In America, cattle have altered the environment more than all the highways, strip mines, dams, and power plants combined, according to

Producing a single pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving an SUV 40 miles – 500 pounds of carbon dioxide for just a quarter-pound hamburger. Worldwide petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 11 years if the rest of the world started eating meat like the United States does. But if Americans skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted a vegetarian meal instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads (! Despite these undeniable statistics, some people ­defend eating meat and deny the impacts of an ­omnivorous diet on the environment.

There is no doubt that meat production harms the environment by contributing to deforestation, global warming, wasted resources, and pollution. The United Nations has said that going vegetarian is the greenest thing individuals can do to save the environment. The University of Chicago reports that going vegetarian is 50 percent more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse emissions.

What did the great thinkers Aristotle, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Mohandas Gandhi, and John Lennon have in common? They were all vegetarians. But don’t worry, there is no need to swear off meat all at once! By simply reducing your meat consumption (especially beef) you can take steps to help save the environment and stop global warming. Cut down a little bit each week at a pace that suits you. Refrain from eating that hamburger – our earth will thank you for it!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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wavescrash77 said...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 10:19 am
using your computer also can be considered a sorce of gobal warming, personally i feel that the way our bodies, as human beings, were made to eat both meat and vegitation. This essay was enlightening, and had many supporting facts that further expressed ones passion and knowledge :) good job
KandyKiwi said...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm

THIS IS AMAZING! If there is anyway to get this in the magazine, it could reach so many people!!!

I have been a vegetarian for atleast a year now and it is the best decision i have ever made! And this article makes it all the better!!!!


Die.In.Ink said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 11:54 am
This Is Honestly Amazing. It's Nice To Know That Other People Care As Much As I Do. I've Been A Vegetarian For A Year, And Nine Months. And I Love It.
TuffGurl said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 11:53 am
this was very interesting. It's obvious you got all of your information from, and the other info is from yourself; you could've put in the author comments part that you got most of your information from and others were outside information, because the way you kept saying "according to..." and ( is sort of amateur. It's an awesome article, though. I once read a book where there was a girl who called herself a "flexitarian" because she only eats meat somet... (more »)
hootowl4 said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

I love this essay!!! i'm already a vegetarian (in a family of meat eaters) this is an inspiration to keep at it.

I loved the ending paragraph,you did your homework :) 

sabortooth1 said...
Jul. 8, 2010 at 10:26 am
Please read the book review of The Kite Runner.  Just search "The Kite Runner" and it is about the third green highlighted one.  Very Inspiring! Rate/Comment it
Liz891 said...
Jun. 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm
Wow! That was written very nicely. I love all the facts you put into iit. I'm already a vegitarian, but heres another reason for me to be one.
SocialCollision said...
Jun. 24, 2010 at 9:12 am
You go! It's wonderful how you pulled together your facts. And yes a lot of people will disagree with you, but this is something that everyone should be aware of. I'm also a vegetarian so ever since i was little, I have been around these facts. Thanks for introducing them to the world:p  ---- Social Collision    
vballchick said...
Jun. 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm
I do like the way you wrote your opinion but the pollution from cars and trash has a lot to do with global warming too. I'm not saying they're a bigger cause of it, I'm just saying they're contribution to the Earth is equal to the beef farms' contrubution. It did open my eyes though because I've never thought about it like that. It was very informative and I want to warn you though, many people may highly disagree with you on this subject or they may completely agre... (more »)
Boxen94 said...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 7:33 pm
The only reeson the the from cattel manure is bad for the envierment is because cattle in factory farms are so crampt that all the manure is in one big plie, and cows thet are spred out proporly dont creat wastland, they fertilize it. I am vegetarian my self,(be sides sea food)and am not suporting big cattel bissnes, far from it, i am varey much agenst any and all factory farms. Just please, dont attack all beef farms.
HCReingold replied...
Sept. 3, 2010 at 9:42 pm
*reason, *cattle, *enviornment, *cramped, *pile, *spread, *properly, *don't, *myself, *seafood, *supporting, *very, *against, *don't where all spelled incorrectly, although your comment is quite well writen. Sorry for my perfectionisim :P
JK :) replied...
Nov. 12, 2010 at 7:24 pm
Sorry to ruin it for you, but you spelled 'were' incorrectly :) not where......
HC R replied...
Nov. 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm
:P Sorry...
Angela C. said...
Jun. 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm
Vegetarianism is the way to go. I've been one for a little over a year. (:
bobun16 said...
Jun. 10, 2010 at 7:38 pm
another little fun fact, in the 70's, they were worried abotu a second ice age, ;D.
bobun16 said...
Jun. 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm
Actually, cows are a pretty big environment killer too, they produce methane through burbing and (I cant think of an eloquent way to phrase this) farting. Also, their poo biodegrades into methane. Methane is much worse for the environment than CO2 as well. Just a little fun fact.
lindzy14 said...
Jun. 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Great article! :) \

Very informative and well-written. Definitely an eye opener. I have never thought about the meat industry in that way.


greystar said...
May 26, 2010 at 7:42 pm
maybe you should send YOUR food to others. Im keeping mine. also, i will stop eating animals the day they stop eating people.; )
peggy87 said...
May 25, 2010 at 9:06 pm

The few people I knew who are vegitarian do it for environmental reasons. They explained it to me in simple terms, but this article went much more in depth which made it very interesting.

I do like the environment, but I think I love meat too much to ever become a vegitarian.

DayofRain50 replied...
Jun. 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm
I love the environment, but too many things that I love are meat. It would just be way too hard for me to stop. Sorry. 
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