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  • Writer's pictureThe Climate Coach

Let's talk about beef

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

Oh no - please don't tell me to stop eating beef! Well....

beef steak with salt and pepper seasoning

One of the best (and actually easiest!) things you can do to reduce your personal emissions is to significantly reduce the amount of beef you consume - or stop eating it all-together. There is more and more research supporting the huge impact beef has on climate - and it's getting hard to ignore and justify still eating it regularly or even at all.

Per kg of food product, beef is on average the worst food you can eat for greenhouse gas emissions.

The emissions come from two main areas:

  • Methane emitted from cows burping and farting. The more we consume, the more of this there is. It's very very difficult to reduce it - and even special feed to help reduce it only helps marginally.

  • Land use change. 80% of the Amazon rainforest which has already been destroyed, was destroyed for livestock farming. This is ultimately caused by increased demand for beef - so again, not buying it helps reduce this. Cows take up a huge amount of space - the latest studies suggest that over 50% of all habitable land globally, if used for animal agriculture, with the bulk of that being for cows.

But I only eat local beef...

Surprisingly, transportation only makes up around 5% of total beef emissions - so actually eating "local" beef doesn't really make that much difference in the grand scheme of things. Eating a plant based alternative to beef (e.g. plant based mince, or a plant based burger) will reduce your personal emissions from that meal much more significantly. Even choosing chicken over beef is significantly better.

Even if you ate a purely grass fed (e.g. cows grown this way make fewer methane and have fewer emissions from having to have crops grown to feed them) steak from a farmer next door to you who practices holistic grazing (meaning cows rotate round different pastures), farms organically and also practices energy and water recycling programs - the emissions from that beef will still be significantly higher compared to other foods you could eat.

The fact of the matter is - climate friendly beef does not exist, and there are no genuine ideas for making it exist either...yet!

Ok, I get it

Ok cool, so in a nutshell if you want to quickly and easily make a difference on climate - swap beef for literally anything else and you'll reduce your emissions. Better still, swap your usual beef dish for a plant based alternative - such as a "Meatless" burger patty. You don't have to go completely plant based - or even stop eating beef completely but in Western society, we eat far too much beef and we need to drastically reduce. It may feel like it won't make much difference by just you doing it - but the very fact you reduce eating beef or pick a plant based alternative sometimes will prompt conversations with friends or family and more often than not, people are broadly aware of the above and sometimes just need someone else to take the lead! They may be scared to try new things - or even just assume they won't like it because they like beef.

Collectively, lots of people cutting down on beef consumption will prompt supply to reduce - thus reducing emissions from beef. You'll also be supporting some of the innovative companies developing new delicious plant based products - and even if you buy it from a "meat" brand (e.g. someone like Richmond, who have recently started making plant based versions of their popular meat products) - you are still sending them a clear message that it's time to change.

If you have any thoughts, feedback or ideas you wish to contribute on this or any other topic covered by The Climate Coach - please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

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