Beef pollutes environment: scientists

Tokyo, July 19 (IANS) Production of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, a Japanese study has found.

The researchers at the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan calculated the environmental cost of raising cattle through conventional farming, slaughtering the animal and then distributing the meat.

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They found that a kilogram of beef was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for three hours leaving all the lights on back home, reported the online edition of New Scientist.

Producing a kilogram of beef has a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of harmful sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy, the study said.

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.

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane released from the animals’ digestive systems, while the acid and fertilising substances come primarily from their waste.

“Over two-thirds of the energy goes towards producing and transporting the animals’ feed,” said Akifumi Ogino and his colleagues from the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science.

Possible interventions, they suggest, include better waste management and shortening the interval between calving by one month. The latter measure could reduce the total environmental load by nearly six percent.

A Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic beef, raised on grass rather than concentrated feed, emits 40 percent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 percent less energy.

According to scientists, the increase in greenhouse gases due to several man made and natural factors is expected to raise the average global temperature of the planet by 2 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 to 100 years.