Is cheap beef worth destroying the environment?


As Americans, we all love a good burger or steak from time to time, and the industrialization of the food market has privileged us as a society to have easy, and affordable access to red meat. However, at what cost is this mass production of meat having on the world beyond the price of a burger or steak. From ethical, environmental, and anthropological standpoints, what lies behind every piece of beef is worth taking notice.


Today, there are over 1.4 billion cows in the world, and are the world’s number 1 destroyer of the environment. A report from the World Bank Group revealed that 51% of greenhouse gasses come from the gas emissions from cows, making them more harmful to the environment than gas guzzling cars and airplanes. Furthermore, cows are also held responsible for other environmental crimes such as producing acid rain, creating dead zones in the oceans, and poisoning rivers and drinking water. If the growing issue is not addressed, many animals will go extinct, and the damage done by cattle will be more than double by 2050. Because of the world’s high demand for cheap, delicious meat, we are deciding to mass produce beef, and disregard the severe amounts pollution due to cow farts. As a result, the United States, who are excessive meat eaters, leave the strongest ecological footprint out of any country in the world. In other words, the United States is the leader is waste production, and requires the most resources for its consumption.


From an ethical standpoint, due to industrial agriculture, cattle being herded for beef are subject to miserable living conditions. For identification purposes ranchers often brand their animals causing third degree burns, rip male’s testicles off without pain relievers, and remove and burn their horns. Furthermore, as an attempt to fatten up the cows for quality beef, the cows are fed an unnatural diet (such as corn supplements as opposed to grass) that causes many stomach problems that can be fatal. Their diet leads to an increase in gas emissions, and the confined areas they live in forces them to inhale the toxins, leading to painful respiratory problems. In addition to the cows suffering, consumers of the the meat are directly affected as well. Industrial agriculture has a drastic affect on foodways around the world, and heavily impacts the anthropological idea of food security. As we observed in class, the “Corn Belt,” is a major contributor to beef, and the insertion of high fructose corn syrup has depleted the nutritional value of the meat. The industrialization of the food market has had significant impact on the health of consumers, and reflects the increasing global rates of obesity. Is the production of red meat so important where we should be torturing these animals, and causing incredible damage to our own environment and bodies? Or could we just eat a civil amount of meat and avoid the mass production beef?



The Beef Industry


2 thoughts on “Is cheap beef worth destroying the environment?”

  1. I absolutely think that this topic should be widely discussed by both people involved in policy and the food production system with seriousness and a sense of urgency. While I don’t think it’s practical to expect everyone to give up eating meat, I do think it’s reasonable to ask people to eat less meat on a regular basis. Although I am not a vegetarian, I have worked to limit the amount of meat I eat and instead turn to alternate ways of consuming protein. As we have discussed in class, a major problem in the way we raise cattle for slaughter is that they are almost entirely cornfed and are often confined to living in incredibly small spaces so they gain weight more quickly. If more people decreased the amount of beef they eat on a regular basis, then perhaps we could gradually start to raise cattle that eat more grass and are able to roam more freely. Making this simple change would allow for healthier cattle and people overall.


    1. I completely agree on your point of view! I am not a full on vegetarian or better yet a vegan, but I do try to count down on meat. I have alternated and substituted meat. I try to consume meat only once a week which is typically on weekends to get my “protein”. This is a topic that I strongly believe should be talked about in ALL communities. I think if people were more knowledgeable about these topics they would be able to obtain a larger picture on the harm of the disgusting meats they consume. These poor cows are physically abused by mass production in farms. They feed the cows this nasty corn that no one can actually eat unless it is processed until they cannot eat anymore to get these cows nice, big and disturbing. Then, they milk them with these cold and hard metal to get the most amount of milk as possible after they have exploded them with non-nutritious foods! After, when the cow can no longer produce the milk they need… they are slaughtered. Most standard American’s favorite step occurs, the cow is now turned into ground beef. I absolutely dislike any kind of beef. We cannot change everyone’s perspective on meat but what we can do is limit the amount of meat we consume a day or per week. The change does not have to be drastic but if more and more of us do it the mass production of meat will decrease.


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