From the website of New Scientist, an article called Meat is murder on the environment describing the publication of a peer-reviewed paper called “Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow-calf system by the life cycle assessment method” by Akifumi OGINO, Hideki ORITO, Kazuhiro SHIMADA and Hiroyuki HIROOKA:
Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy (Animal Science Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x). In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
That’s actually likely to be a conservative estimate too..
The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is higher than the study suggests.
Food for though ?