PSA: Hamburgers Are Destroying Our Planet
Lifestyle

PSA: Hamburgers Are Destroying Our Planet

Looking at he environmental cost of beef production.

65

Few foods grow to the status of icons within their respective cultures. The hamburger, however, may be worthy of classification as one of these icons. A humble, tasty creation born out of the need for a convenient, portable meal in Industrial America quickly became a cheap, high-protein staple of our cuisine. Fast-food giants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. have ensured that in almost every corner of the country, we have access to this bite of American culture.

Unfortunately, this delicious cultural bite represents a substantial threat to life as we know it.

Sound crazy? Given the massive environmental drain of beef production and the high consumption of beef patties throughout the world (the NPD, a global information agency, estimates through its “foodservice market research [indicates that] there were 9 billion servings of burgers ordered at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets [in 2014],” and other estimates go as high as 50 billion), it’s not entirely off the mark.

How exactly does beef production hurt the environment?

First, it entails staggering consumption of clean water to irrigate corn fields, to keep cattle hydrated, and to clean cattle feedlots. How much water? According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), “Feed production requires ≈45 billion m3 of irrigation water, equal to ≈27% of the total national irrigation use, or ≈150 m3 per person per year, which is comparable to overall household consumption.” Other data (see infographic below) indicates that as much as 2400 liters of water (about 634 gallons) are necessary for one hamburger patty.

Next, it entails huge swathes of land for growing corn/grain feed, for grazing, and for feedlots. The PNAS study states that “The total requirements [of beef production], including pasture land, amount to ≈3.7 million km2, equivalent to ≈40% of the total land area of the United States or ≈12,000 m2 per person.” A study published by the World Banking Organization estimates that beef production utilizes 80% of deforested land in the Amazon, where biodiverse rainforests once thrived.

Finally, beef production entails ridiculous productions of greenhouse gasses. “[Greenhouse gas] emissions total 0.3 × 1012 kg CO2e which is ≈5% of total US emissions, or 1.1 [ton] per person per year, equivalent to about 20% of the transportation sector emissions” (PNAS).

Access to clean water is certainly not a reality for every human on this planet (particularly those in developing countries). Those of us who have access with a flick of a faucet tap are often lulled into a false security that fresh water will always be accessible. Our human activities—such as agricultural uses toxic pesticides/insecticides, runoff from fertilized lawns, fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests, and seepage of coolant waters from nuclear power plants into groundwater—are polluting this essential component of life.

Advances in agricultural practices, refrigeration, and transportation have enabled arable land all over the world to produce prodigious amounts of food, and yet Hunger Notes states that “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016 [time period].” Although eliminating beef consumption would not rectify this epidemic of starvation, it would free up massive amounts of land that could be used to grow more affordable, more portable, and overall more sustainable caloric/protein sources such as soybeans.


Human use of fossil fuels—though being reduced through increasing accessibility to renewable energies such as wind, hydroelectric, and solar power—is releasing ungodly amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These gases are contributing to extreme weather, ocean acidification, destruction of coral reefs and other vibrant ecosystems, sea level rising, habitat destruction, and global warming. Again, beef production is not the only source of these evils—but it is, without a doubt, a contributing factor.

So please, let’s ditch the hamburger. Let’s find a more sustainable food icon. Our lives and the lives of billions of other organisms depend on it.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Politics and Activism

4 Ways The Plan To Deport International Students Is Dumb, According To An Exchange Student

The whole policy isn't very stay-in-place, if you ask me.

Wikimedia Commons

On Monday, July 6, new federal guidelines were announced that do not allow international students to remain in the U.S. unless they are taking classes in person. Which, if you ask me, is stupid.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Naya Rivera Is Missing, And She Deserves SO Much More Than Being Labeled 'Big Sean's' Ex'

We are all sending prayers to Naya Rivera hoping she finds them so we can find her.

I woke up this morning looking to find Naya Rivera's name trending No. 1 on Twitter. I was reading all of everyone's prayers wishing to find her so she can be reunited with her baby boy who is only 4 years old.

Naya's son's name is Lord and the entire collective is hoping the Lord is with him right now. I'm a firm believer in the Fear of God, I hope all of Naya's love is protecting Lord right now.

Keep Reading... Show less

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic still surging in the United States, where we are averaging 50,000 cases daily, wearing a face mask has become even more important. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has stressed the importance of wearing a mask and is pleading Americans to take notice of the "disturbing" rise in cases. It would be common sense to listen to him, considering we are dealing with a virus that has a mortality rate higher than what we have seen with other viruses.

Keep Reading... Show less

It's your fairy sex godmother back at it again and here to tell you that masturbating is an essential need, just like toilet paper.

It comes with so many benefits, besides cumming. According to the New York City Health Department, "you are your safest sex partner" during a pandemic, so why not use the best toys to get the job done? Shopping for the best fit can be tricky because there are a few factors to consider — whether it's the price point, experience, sound, and more.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These 3 Smoothies Totally Cleared My Acne-Prone And Scarred Skin

How I drank my way to flawless skin.

With this summer being the first of its kind for most people to be in the midst of a global pandemic, almost everyone is beginning to have an overall focus on improving their health.

Keep Reading... Show less

Everyone remembers the first time they went to one of the Disney parks. Spinning in teacups and having Goofy wrap his arms around my 8-year-old self were some of my fondest childhood memories, and I'm surely not alone in that.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These Superfood Beauty Products Show Kale And Matcha Work For SO Much More Than We Thought

Just another summer's day with a cold glass of kombucha on my face.

I've been vegan for about six years now, so a love for fresh vegetables and superfoods has now become a core part of my being. Don't get me wrong. I love my indulgent, creamy pastas and truffle fries more than anyone. But I keep most of my focus on eating clean and healthy so I can indulge guilt-free.

But I'd say about a large part of my diet has always, unknowingly, included superfoods. Being Indian, lentils, beetroot, garlic, ginger, and whole grains have been core essentials on the family dinner table since I could digest solid foods.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments