20 Quick Facts: The Impact Of Beef And Dairy On Climate Change

Big Meat and Dairy is heating up the planet at an alarming pace. Here are some facts focused on cows primarily raised in the large-scale factory farm system that most people are not aware of when it comes to just how much beef and dairy contributes to the climate crisis.

Spoiler alert. The impact is massive in scale, which is why I am focused on helping to normalize plant-based eating for climate action, and help people make the shift to going vegan or plant-based.

1. Total emissions from global livestock is 14.5% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions, and of that cattle represent a whopping 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions. [FAO]

2. The world’s top five meat and dairy corporations combined are now responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than Exxon, Shell or BP. [GRAIN]

3. In 2018 in the U.S, large-scale livestock farms aka factory farms were exempt from reporting air emissions to federal authorities when Congress passed the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act. [Mother Jones]

In 2019, the EPA exempted these same factory farms from reporting air emissions from animal waste to local agencies. This is an example of systemic environmental racism as many factory farms are located in rural areas among communities highly populated with people of color and low incomes. [Civil Eats]

4. Cows raised for beef emit the most greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain. The largest portion of emissions originates on the farm, so what you eat is more significant than where the food is grown. Locally raised or not, transport is miniscule in comparison. [Our World in Data]

5. Beef (49.89kg) emits 25 times more carbon per 100 grams of protein than tofu (1.98) does. [Our World in Data]

6. Beef has emissions equivalent to coal. In comparison, tofu has emissions equivalent to wind and solar, and plant-based burgers from brands Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have emissions equivalent to hydropower. [Economist]