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Fossil Fuels and the Meat Industry

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hey, first time posting here... not much one for forums.

In any case, I recently came across some good, generally neglected, information about vegetarianism in a more global view, while preparing a speech for school. I thought it would be good to get this information integrated into the general vegetarian community.
While I found a lot of good stuff on the agricultural impact of meat production in the U.S., and the world as a whole, something I found really interesting was its relation to our use of fossil fuels. It's some pretty weighty knowledge, considering how much concern there is in the states over dependence over foreign oil.

Meat, aside from being an inefficient use of land and water (beef especially), is an awful waste of fossil fuel:

[Input of kilocalories through fossil fuel to output of kilocalories in protein]
Beef: 54:1
Lamb: 50:1
Eggs: 26:1
Pork: 17:1
Milk: 14:1
Turkey: 13:1
Chicken: 4:1
(http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases...stock.hrs.html)

The average meat-eater's diet uses 200 gallons more of fossil fuels a year - total, twice what the average vegetarian's takes.
To put it another way; meat-eaters are essentially driving an extra 14 miles a day (5,000 a year). Going vegetarian saves more gas than driving a Prius.
(http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/energy.html)

If you're curious to see how exactly that oil is used;
31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer
19% for the operation of field machinery
16% for transportation
13% for irrigation
08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)
05% for crop drying
05% for pesticide production
08% miscellaneous
(Livestock's Long Shadow; http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm)

So, next time someone talks to you about dependence on foreign oil, and how it's "about time we started drilling in America", here' something you can throw in their face. I know it had a pretty solid impact when I threw that into my speech.

(If there are any errors/outdated information in my research, or notable points that I haven't mentioned, feel free to enlighten me. Want to be as accurate and effective as possible)


On a side note, I'm sure many of you have somewhere read that factoid that seems to have been floating around the internet for as long as I can remember since becoming a vegetarian 8 years ago -
With the fuel necessary to make a single hamburger, you could drive a small car 20 miles.
If there's a legitimate source for that statement, I wasn't able to find it. While I always found it to be a powerful point to throw out, it's important to be factually consistent when saying something, lest you spit out a piece of information that can be disproved, and it hurts your cause.
So, my science-inclined friend and I did the actual math:
and
considering the patty alone, the math figures out to about 3/10 a gallon of gas. In a small car, getting 30-40 mpg, that's 9-12 miles. So, the total is a bit less, but it's still pretty significant, if you ask me.
If you want to check the math, here ya go:
(information taken from nutritional info on average burger patty, and kilocalorie ratio mentioned above)

12.9 g(hamburger) * ( 54 g(fossil fuel) / 1 g(hamburger) ) = 696.6 g(fossil fuel) (per hamburger)
696.6 g(fossil fuel) * (55600 Joules / 1 g(fossil fuel) ) = 38730960 Joules (per hamburger)
38730960 Joules * ( 1 Gallon(gasoline) / 130000000 joules ) = 0.2979304615 Gallons of gasoline (per hamburger)
0.3 Gallons of gas * (30 Miles / 1 Gallon of gas) = 9 Miles per hamburger
post #2 of 4
I agree. It's very wasteful. I think the waste of water is even worse since there are no alternatives. We could move off fossil fuel if the government wanted to rather easily, but you just can't do that with water. That was interesting. Thanks for posting.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Yeah, the water usage is pretty ridiculous as well.
Something like 87% of the U.S.'s freshwater is used for agriculture,
and that number is 70% for the whole world.

I really wish environmental groups would stop pussyfooting around this obvious and simple solution.
post #4 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by imdead-goaway View Post

Yeah, the water usage is pretty ridiculous as well.
Something like 87% of the U.S.'s freshwater is used for agriculture,
and that number is 70% for the whole world.

I really wish environmental groups would stop pussyfooting around this obvious and simple solution.

Yeah, there's a lot of corruption in the environmental movement. Animal agriculture may be the biggest environmental issue in the world but I remember in one of Al Gore's books he very, very briefly mentioned it. The meat and dairy industries have far too much influence in this country for animal agriculture to get the attention it deserves, even from environmental groups.
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