The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers – Social and Environmental Impacts
The short video The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers confronts the hidden externalities and environmental destruction from eating hamburgers and meat. Americans eat three times more meat than people in other countries, and beef consumption has more than doubled since World War II. So what does this mean?
Some of the Hidden Costs to Our Planet:
- Cows take up a lot of space—they take up more than 30 percent of the Earth’s entire land mass.
- Raising livestock is causing forests and rainforests to be bulldozed worldwide in order to raise livestock.
- It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pound of grain-fed beef.
- Cows in America create 500 million tons of manure every year that is polluting and poisoning our streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, and air and land.
- Cows are ruminant animals and ruminants eat grass—before the 1970s cows did eat mainly grass; but since the 1970s cows have been fed an “industrialized” diet of corn and soy (heavily government subsidized crops), which is physically unnatural and damaging to their intestines and digestion and causes severe gastric distress—and as a result—lots of gas (methane pollution) and manure (nitrogen pollution).
- Cow manure also creates nitrous oxide which has 300 times the global warming effect as carbon dioxide (CO2), and is responsible for two-thirds of all the nitrous oxide pollution in the world.
- Nitrogen fertilizer used to grow feed for cows is contaminating our waterways and oceans, causing deadly algae blooms and enormous dead spots in the ocean—our marine life is dying.
- Slaughterhouses create about 30 million pounds of contaminants per year that end up in our environment and in our bodies.
- One burger patty can contain the meat from more than 1,000 cows, which means E. coli is more easily spread and meat is more easily contaminated.
- One single quarter-pound burger produces about 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases (GHG). If you eat (3) burgers per week, that’s 158 million tons of GHG per year from just one person eating hamburgers!
- Americans eat too much meat and not enough plants and vegetables, causing serious health risks, chronic disease and shorter life spans due to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
What Can You Do?
- Eat less meat – reduce your meat consumption to 1-2 days a week
- Stop eating meat altogether and shift to a plant-based, whole foods diet
- Go off all animal foods (dairy, meat and eggs) and Go Vegan for your health, the animals and the planet!
Video Length: 7:51 minutes
Originally Released: August 2012
Sources of information:
Food For 9 Billion Project:
This video was directed and produced by Carrie Ching at the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) as part of the “Food for 9 Billion” project, a yearlong look at the challenge of feeding the world at a time of social and environmental change.
Reporting was by Sarah Terry-Cobo and the art and animation was by Arthur Jones. Funding came from the Society of Environmental Journalists and Spot.us users.