Holy cow! Meat consumption worldwide is projected to increase more than 70% by the year 2050.


Tim Searchinger, a scholar at Princeton University and a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, says beef production is an inefficient use of limited resources and a significant cause of global warming. Cattle consume a lot of food, and growing that food uses land and energy that increases greenhouse gas emissions.

Searchinger: “It takes a lot more feed to produce meat in the form of beef than it does in the form of chicken or pork. Cows also produce methane, and methane’s a powerful greenhouse gas.”

While eating less beef can help reduce global warming, Searchinger says farmers can also make production more efficient.

Searchinger: “We want the grasses to be well-managed. We want cows to be moved rapidly around from one area to another, which leads to more efficient grazing. We want the cows to be well cared for.”

Searchinger says healthy herds produce more meat per cow, and better grazing practices require less land. So while no one expects the world to completely lose its appetite for beef, making beef production more efficient and sustainable can help.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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More Resources
Creating a Sustainable Food Future: Interim Findings. A menu of solutions to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people by 2050.
McDonald’s to Use Region-Specific Standards To Buy Sustainable Beef
Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...