Eating can be energy-efficient, too
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
With Americans looking to reduce their "carbon footprints," food seems an obvious place to start.
Choosing a diet with a smaller carbon footprint means choosing foods that are processed in ways that emit less carbon dioxide — a heat-trapping "greenhouse" gas — into the atmosphere. In general, experts say, it breaks down to these guidelines:
•Cut down on meat. "That doesn't mean never eat meat, it means eat less of it," says Gail Feenstra, a food systems analyst at the University of California-Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.
Meat is less efficient because we eat the animal that eats the grain instead of eating the grain ourselves. It takes about 15 pounds of feed to make 1 pound of beef, 6 pounds of feed for 1 pound of pork and 5 pounds of feed for 1 pound of chicken, the Department of Agriculture estimates. For catfish, it's about 2 pounds of feed per pound of fish.
Add to the feed the cost of raising, transporting and producing cattle, and beef is by far the least energy-efficient meat. Nathan Fiala, a doctoral candidate in environmental economics at the University of California-Irvine, estimates it requires about 15 pounds of carbon dioxide to produce 1 pound of beef.
"A family of four that gives up eating beef one day a week has basically traded in their pickup for a Prius," he says. Read More
You will probably see articles like this in several places today. Unfortunately, the numbers they are using to try to make their point are wrong. For example, they are saying that eating beef leaves a large carbon footprint. The author claims that it takes 15 lbs of feed to make a pound of beef. If that was the feed conversion rate for cattle in this country, no one could afford to feed them. Cattle in a feedyard will normally convert between 6 and 7 pounds of feed into a pound of beef. In order to make informed decisions, consumers need accurate information. It’s the job of producers to make sure that happens.