The Environmental Impact Of Eating Beef And


The Environmental Impact Of Eating Beef And Dairy Products Essay, Research Paper

The Environmental Impact of Eating Beef and Dairy Products

There are currently 1.28 billion cattle populating the

earth. They occupy nearly 24 percent of the landmass of the planet. Their

combined weight exceeds that of the earth’s entire human population. Raising

cows for beef has been linked to several environmental problems, and eating beef

can worsen your health. The Dairy Industry puts not only your health in danger

from consuming their products, but the lives of the cows that produce them.

There is severe environmental damage brought on by

cattle ranching, including the destruction of rainforests and grasslands. Since

1960 more than 25 percent of Central America’s forests have been cleared to

create pastureland for grazing cattle. By the late 1970’s two-thirds of all

agricultural land in Central America was occupied by cattle and other livestock.

More than half the rual families in Central America-35 million people-are now

landless or own too litle land to support themselves. Cattle are also a major

cause of desertification around the planet. Today about 1.3 billion cattle are

trampling and stripping much of the vegetative cover from the earth’s remaining

grasslands. Each animal eats its way through 900 pounds of vegetation a month.

Without plants to anchor the soil, absorb the water, and recycle the nutrients,

the land has become increasingly vulnerable to wind and water erosion. More

than 60 percent of the world’s rangeland has been damaged by overgrazing during

the past half century.

Cattle ranching has also been linked to Global Warming.

The grain-fed-cattle complex is now a significant factor in the emission of

three of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect- methane, carbon dioxide,

and nitrous oxides- and is likely to play an even larger role in Global Warming

in the coming decades. The burning of fossil fuels accounted for nearly two-

thirds of the 815 billion tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in 1987.

The other third came from the increased burning of the forests and grasslands.

When the trees are cleared and burned to make room for cattle pastures, they

emit a massive volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Commercial cattle

ranching also contributes to Global Warming in other ways. With 70 percent of

all U. S. grain production now devoted to livestock feed, much of ot for cattle,

the energy burned by farm machinery and transport vehicles just to produce and

ship the feed represents a significant addition to carbon dioxide emissions. It

now takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of grain-fed

beef in the United States. To sustain the yearly beef requirements of an

average family of four requires the use of more than 260 gallons of fossil fuel.

Finally; Nitrous Oxide, which accounts for 6 percent of the global warming

effect, is released from fertilizer used in growing the feed; and methane, which

makes up 18 percent, is emitted from the cattle.

The final victims of the world cattle complex are the

animals themselves. Immediately after birth, male calves are castrated to make

them more “docile”, and to improve the quality of their meat. To ensure that

the animals will not injure each other, they are dehorned with a chemical paste

that burns out their horns’ roots. Neither of these procedures is done with


There are about 42,000 feedlots in 13 major cattle-

feeding states in the United states. The feedlot is generaly a fenced-in area

with a concrete feed trough along one side. In many of the larger feedlots,

thousands of cattle are crowded together side by side in severely cramped

quarters. To obtain the optimum weight gain in the minimum time, feedlot

managers administer a variety of pharmaceuticals to their cattle, including

growth-stimulating hormones and feed additives. Anabolic steroids, in the form

of small time-release pellets, are implanted in the animals’ ears. cattle are

given estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone. The hormones stimulate the

cells to produce additional protein, adding muscle and fat tissue more rapidly.

Today 80 percent of all the herbicides used in the United States are sprayed on

corn and soybeans. After being consumed by the cattle, these herbicides

accumulate in their bodies and are passed along to the consumer in finished cuts

of beef. beef now ranks number one in herbicide contamination and number two in

overall pesticide contamination. Some feedlots now expiriment with adding

cardboard, newspapers, and sawdust to the feed to reduce costs. Other factory

farms scrape up the manure from chicken houses and pigpens and add it directly

to cattle feed. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials say that it is not

uncommon for some feedlot operators to mix industrial sewage and oils into the

feed to reduce costs and fatten animals more quickly.

Moving beyond beef in our daily diets is a personal

decision, but one that has profound and far-reaching consequences. Millions of

Americans and Europeans are making personal choices to move beyond beef, or at

least to cut down their consumption, and this will have a significant impact on

the future of our planet and humanity.Beef consumption in the United States

has dropped markedly in the past 20 years, from 83 pounds per person per year in

1975 to less than 68 pounds per person per year in 1990.

Today’s dairy cow has been bred to be a milk machine,

producing an average of 15,557 pounds of milk a year, almost 40 percent more

than her counterpart of just 16 years ago. while the undomesticated cow

produced enough milk to feed her one or two calves, a dairy cow in a modern

dairy farm produces about twenty times more milk than her calf needs. Excessive

production demands, coupled with the trend toward confining cows indoors or in

densely populated drylots (enclosures devoid of grass), have resulted in serious

welfare and disease problems for the dairy cow.

The modern dairy cow is usually artifically inseminated,

pumped full of hormones and growth stimulants, and super-ovulated so she can

churn out more calves, faster and faster. Cows are fed a diet geared toward

high production. This diet, which is heavy in grain, is fed to species whose

digestive track is suited to roughages. High-production diets create many

health problems, including severe metabolic disorders and painful lameness,

which are compounded by confinement. Also, at any given time, half of U.S.

dairy cattle have mastitis (a painful udder inflamation, usually caused by


Today’s cow is typically burned out (unable to keep up

production) and sent to slaughter, for human consumption and other uses, at an

average age of four years. Her natural life span would be from twenty to

twenty-five years.

A recent analysis by the FDA found that meat from dairy

cows and their calves was the source of 60 percent of those drug and other

chemical residues found in edible meats in ammounts that violated allowable

limits (Dairy cows are the source for the majority of processed beef and 26

percent of hamburger in the United States ). The government’s ability to ensure

a safe milk supply has also come into question.

Despite a dairy product surplus and with cows already

pushed to their limits, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), a genetically

engineered drug injected into dairy cows to increase milk production, has been

approved for use by American dairy farmers. Embryo transfer, cloning, the

creation of transgenic cows, and the engineering of cows to secrete

pharmaceuticals and other substances in their milk are also under way.

Another practice growing in popularity is tail docking,

the removal of about two-thirds of an adult dairy cow’s tail- without use of an

anesthetic. This procedure, the rationale for which is that it keeps cows

cleaner, is completely unnecessary. It also deprives the cow of her natural

means of swatting flies.

Newborn dairy calves are typically taken from their

mothers at birth of shortly thereafter. Some female calves are kept as

replacements for cows in the dairy herd. The other calves are sent to slaughter

as babies, to veal farms, or to be raised for beef. Many are sent to stockyards

when only one or two days old, even before they can walk. Calves in the

sale/slaughter pipeline are often transported long distances, subjected to rough

handling, and exposed to numerous diseases and weather extremes. They may be

given no opportunity to rest or eat. Calves destined to be slaughtered at

sixteen weeks old for “milk-fed” veal spend their lives in crates so narrow that

they are unable even to turn around. Denied water and solid food, they are fed

a diet consisting solely of an intentionally iron-deficient milk replacement,

often containing antibiotics, which they typically lap up from a bucket twice a

day. Veal is a by-product of the dairy industry that owes its existance to the

surplus calves delivered by ten million dairy cows every year.

Veal consumption has decreased from its peak of 3.5

pounds per capita to under one pound per capita in 1993, owing in large part to

the public’s refusal to purchase inhumanely produced products such as milk-fed


Another by-product of the dairy industry is the downed

animal- an animal who is too weak, ill, or injured to stand or walk without

assistance. Burned-out dairy cows and newborn calves make up a large percentage

of downed animals, who often suffer from brutal treatment at livestock markets.

Baby calves that cannot walk are often dragged or thrown and are trampled by

other animals. Downed dairy cows are painfully dragged off trucks and across

stockyards by chains or ropes tied around one leg. Both downed calves and cows

are shocked with electric prods, kicked, and beaten during the transport and

auction process in futile attempts to get them to move on their own. They are

often left without food, water, or veterinary care, sometimes for days at a time,

untill they either die or are loaded onto trucks yet again for a trip to

slaughter. as many as 90 percent of downed animals could be prevented by simple

improvements in management, handling, and transportation practices, including

keeping newborn calves on the farm of their birth for a minimum of five days

before sending them to market.

There are many health problems linked with eating beef

and dairy products. Harvard scientists found that women who had beef, lamb, or

pork as a daily main dish ran two and a half the risk of developing colon cancer

as did those who ate the meats less than once a month. The conclusions are

drawn from a study of 88,751 nurses that was begun in 1980. Eating beef has

also been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Drinking

milk has been linked to asthma, allergies, intestinal bleeding, and juvenile

diabetes. Cutting dairy products out of your diet gives you a greater chance of

avoiding bronchial, respiratory, and stomach problems.

Eating Beef, as well as dairy products, has an extreme

impact on the environment. Raising cows for beef has been linked to several

environmental problems, such as Global Warming, and eating beef can worsen your

health. The dairy industry puts not only your health in danger from consuming

dairy products, but that of the cows who make them as well.

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