One of the most often overlooked contributors to climate change is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture uses up many of the Earth’s resources – land, water, and crops, to name a few – to produce a much smaller yield of food and a lot of waste. This practice is incredibly inefficient when compared with the farming of plants.
Many people don’t think about the sheer amount of crops that are grown just to feed livestock. We are currently growing so many crops for livestock that, if fed to humans instead, we would have enough food to feed 10 billion people. (1) To put this further into perspective, 1.5 acres of land can produce 37,000 pounds of plant food, while 1.5 acres of land can produce only 375 pounds of beef. (2) Animal agriculture uses a large amount of plant foods to produce significantly less animal foods, causing significant environmental distress in the process.
Interested in learning more? Learn about how animal products affect our health.
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while exhaust from all transportation is only responsible for 13 percent. (3)
- Five percent of water consumed in the US is by private homes. 55 percent of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture. (2)
- About 1/3 of Earth’s total ice-free land is used for livestock or livestock feed. (4)
- Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon Rainforest destruction. (2) Parts of the rainforest are cleared to grow feed for livestock or room for them to graze.
- At least half of all the grain grown worldwide is fed to livestock. (2)
- Because animal products are very water intensive, just one person switching to a plant-based diet for a year can save around 150,000 gallons of water. (5)
- You can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73 percent. (6)
- You save an estimated 10,957 square feet of forest per year. (7)
- You can reduce the growth of massive ocean dead zones. Ocean dead zones are largely caused by nutrient runoff into the ocean from the grains grown to feed livestock. This causes algal and bacterial overgrowth, lowering the oxygen levels on the seafloor until it can no longer support any kind of sea life. (8)
- Holt-Giménez, Eric & Shattuck, Annie & Altieri, Miguel & Herren, Hans & Gliessman, Steve. (2012). We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People … and Still Can’t End Hunger. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture – J SUSTAINABLE AGR. 36. 595-598. 10.1080/10440046.2012.695331.
- Poore J., Nemecek T. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science. 2018;360:987–992.