Environmental Impacts of the Meat Industry

At Max & Ruffy’s we take conscious steps to maintain our intent as an ethical dog treat company. Our team believes in incorporating meat-free options for both their companions and themselves. There are many different reasons for incorporating animal-free options into the diet. One of these reasons is to help reduce global warming. The meat industry has a major negative impact on the earth, from polluting the water and land, to depleting our forests and precious species of the planet. By adopting a meat-free diet or a meat-reduced diet for your companion you will contribute to saving our environment. Please read the facts below to learn the impacts that meat production has on our earth.

In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Food released a report entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow” that discusses in extensive detailing the detrimental effects the livestock industry has on our planet including climate change, water use and depletion, and loss of biodiversity or species loss. The report summarizes the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” The report recommended that animal agriculture “be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity” H. Steinfeld et al., Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options,(2006).

Interesting Facts to consider:

  • Nearly 800 million people could be fed by all the grain currently fed to US livestock(1)
  • 70% of United States grain goes to feeding farm animals(2)
  • It takes almost 7 pounds of corn and soy to produce just one pound of pork(3)
  • More than half of the water used for all purposes in the United States goes to livestock production(4)
  • 441 gallons of water is needed to produce one pound of meat(5)
  • 14 gallons of water is needed to produce one pound of wheat(5)
  • Every pound of beef that is avoided can save 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water(6)

Meat Industry and Our Water

The meat industry pollutes our natural bodies of water as well as our drinking water. 65 % of California’s population is threatened by pollution in drinking water just from dairy cow manure alone. According to the United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” “In the United States, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55% of erosion, 37% of the pesticides applied, 50% of the volume of antibiotics consumed and for 32% of the nitrogen load and 33% of the phosphorus load into freshwater sources.” Aside from the negative pollution and contamination, the livestock industry accounts for 8% of the global human water use with most of it, 7%, being used for watering crops (7).

Deforestation and Habitat Destruction

The livestock industry plays a major role in deforestation and habitat destruction. Clearing the trees and land to create space for grazing and feedcrop production are key factors in land degradation and the loss of valuable animal species. Most animals raised for food or their by-products are fed grains either as a replacement for grazing or in addition to grazing. Huge amounts of forests have been cleared causing animal species to either lose their habitat or be killed in the process of destroying the land for this demanding industry. According to the 2006 United Nations report, “the total area occupied by grazing is equivalent to 26% of the ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet. In addition, the total area dedicated to feedcrop production amounts to 33% of totally arable land. In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.” In Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring, pastures occupy 70% of previous forested land in the Amazon, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder (7).

A Bigger Gas Problem than A Car

Accounting for an astonishing 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions measured in carbon dioxide (C02) equivalence, the livestock industry plays a significantly greater role in greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. But contributing to carbon dioxide is not the only way the livestock industry is destroying our planet. According to the 2006 United Nations report, the livestock industry is responsible for higher shares of other gases that have higher global warming potential. This industry is responsible for the contribution of:

  • 37% percent of methane gases, a gas that has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide;
  • 65% of nitrous oxide produced from manure, a gas that has 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide;
  • and two-thirds or 64% of ammonia emissions, which contributes to acid rain and destruction of eco-systems(7).

By adopting an animal-free diet for you and your companion you will be actively contributing to greening our planet. In fact, a 2005 study by researchers at the University of Chicago stated that most Americans can reduce more greenhouse gas emissions by becoming vegan than they can by switching to a hybrid electric car. The researchers found that eating a vegan diet prevents the equivalent of 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions every year, more than the 1 ton of CO2 emissions prevented by switching from a typical large sedan to a Toyota Prius (8).

1 David Pimental, professor of entomology at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
2 USDA. (1991, April). World Cereals Used for Feed..
3 Cattle-Fax. (1989, Dec. 8). Grain Utilization in the Livestock and Poultry Industries.
4 L. Beckett & J. W. Oltjen. (1993). Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States. Journal of Animal Science, 71, 818-8268.
5 Resolutions for a new millennium. (2000, Jan 1). Audubon News.
6 Boylan, Steve, Phd “How Our Food Choices can Help Save the Environment
7 Steinfeld, H., Gerber, P., Wassenaar, T., Castel, V., Rosales, M., & Haan, C., (2006). Livestock’s Long Shadow: environmental issues and options. Food and drug organization of the United Nations.
8 2 NewScientist.com, “It’s Better to Green Your Diet Than Your Car,” 17 Dec. 2005.

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