Here’s the problem:

 “More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75 percent of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production,” a United Nations report, released in May, 2019, says.

In the US alone, cropland occupies about one-fifth of U.S. land and most of that is used for livestock feed. An additional one-third is used for pasture. There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows. Between cropland — used to produce feed — and pastures, 41 percent of U.S. land in the contiguous states revolves around livestock.

Trees and forests are a powerful force for climate mitigation. As more forests are cleared for agriculture — mainly to grow soy, raise cattle and produce palm oil — greenhouse gas emissions increase as a byproduct of nitrogen fertilizer and methane from cattle and sheep. Additionally, deforestation eliminates trees which are “breathing in” CO2 and “breathing out” moisture. This releases the carbon dioxide stored in forests.  

The overwhelming majority of the clearing in the Amazon is to make way for cattle and crops that feed cattle.

Based on a UN Food & Agriculture study (2013) it is estimated that the total annual emissions from animal agriculture (production emissions plus land-use change) were about 14.5 percent of all human emissions, of which beef contributed 41 percent. If global demand for beef, goats & sheep grows by 88 percent between 2010 and 2050 (as it is estimated to do), the resulting deforestation could increase global emissions enough to put the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F) out of reach. 

Some of the Solutions:

If we improve the way we raise cattle by improving management practices like rotational grazing, productivity and soil health can be boosted while reducing emissions. This means that cattle should be pasture raised, trampling over vegetation and pushing nutrients into the soil. Cow manure then acts as a natural fertilizer reducing the need for unsustainable tilling practices and dangerous synthetic fertilizers.

If we eat ½ the amount of burgers we are currently consuming it would nearly eliminate the need for additional agricultural expansion (and associated deforestation), even in a world with 10 billion people. 

39% of Americans say they want to eat more plant-based foods. Dozens of organizations across the globe have joined Cool Food pledging to make that possible in their facilities. Now serving 800+ million meals annually, hotels, restaurants, hospitals and company cafeterias are offering consumers more of what they want while slashing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030. 



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Devouring the rainforest

By Terrence McCoy and Júlia Ledur   04/29/22  
Cattle ranching, responsible for the great majority of deforestation in the Amazon, is pushing the forest to the edge of what scientists warn could be a vast and irreversible dieback that claims much of the…

The Field Report: Congress Grills Beef Industry Leaders Over Consolidation

By Lisa Held   04/28/22  
This week, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress turned their attention to how consolidation and unfair practices within cattle markets are hurting America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. During two hearings that spanned more than…

How the Largest Global Meat and Dairy Companies Evade Climate Scrutiny

By Anna Lappe   03/15/22  
Last fall, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) took out a full-page ad in The New York Times declaring that the U.S. “produces the most sustainable beef in the world” and that “cattle play an…

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Fresh off the heels of a major methane ‘win’ at the Glasgow climate summit, the American beef lobby is leading a global effort to change how the climate impact of the powerful greenhouse gas is…

Smarter choices at the dinner table can go a long way to help the Amazon

By Richard Schiffman   03/09/22  
‘We are going to be eating the rainforest in our burgers. This is our moment as Americans to step forward and leverage some pressure to save the world,’ one scientist said.

US beef industry emerges from Biden’s climate pledges ‘relatively unscathed’

By Matt Krupnick   03/07/22  
The US beef industry has escaped “relatively unscathed” from Joe Biden’s attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to leaders at the industry’s recent CattleCon convention.

Satellite images show the Amazon is hurtling toward a ‘tipping point’

By Sarah Kaplan   03/07/22  
More than half of the rainforest could turn into savanna — threatening wildlife, shifting weather patterns and fueling climate change

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Giant Meat and Dairy Companies Are Dominating the Plant-Based and Cellular Meat Market

By Philip H. Howard   09/22/21  
Nearly every week a major media outlet publishes a headline announcing that a giant meat or dairy processor has acquired full or partial ownership of an “alternative protein” firm—such as JBS buying the Dutch firm…

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In February last year, the head of a leading global meat industry body gave a “pep talk” to his colleagues at an Australian agriculture conference.

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Chicken or Beef? Both Contribute to Climate Change, New Study Finds

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Curbing the world's appetite for meat is necessary to combat the climate crisis, but global meat consumption is on the rise. Beef cattle have an outsized environmental impact because they belch methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In total,…

Beefing over beef is a distraction the climate movement can’t afford

By Justine Calma   05/28/21  
Lately, it seems like forgoing red meat has become an unfortunate proxy for environmental credentials. Epicurious, for example, just announced that it will no longer publish articles or recipes with beef in a decision it calls, “not anti-beef…

The ‘Beef’ With Beef: Cattle, Climate Change, And Alternative Meat

By Sherry Listgarten   05/28/21  
Many people might think of Blake Munger as a cattle farmer as he walks through his pasture land in western Kentucky, but he sees things a little differently nowadays. “I don’t know which is more…

From Beef to Chocolate, Illegal Deforestation Lurks Behind Your Favorite Everyday Foods

By Anastasia Moloney   05/19/21  
BOGOTA, May 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Nearly 70% of tropical forests cleared for cattle ranching and crops such as soybeans and palm oil were deforested illegally between 2013 and 2019, a study showed on…

Do We Have To Give Up Meat To Fight Climate Change?

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I was thinking about Brianna Randall’s article for us this week, about cattle ranchers in the Great Plains who are trying to bring fire back to the tall-grass prairie, when I picked up the Sunday Washington Post and read…

Is Beef the New Coal? Climate-Friendly Eating Is on the Rise

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Eleven Madison Park, a top Manhattan restaurant, is going meatless. The Epicurious cooking site stopped posting new beef recipes. The Culinary Institute of America is promoting “plant-forward” menus. Dozens of colleges, including Harvard and Stanford, are…

It’s not just methane—meat production fills the air with noxious particulate matter too

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Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 U.S. deaths per year, study finds

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As the war over meat heats up, American beef consumption skyrockets

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America’s consumption of red meat has only increased during the pandemic, but problems cited by climate change experts say this trend needs to be addressed. Whether it is from the grocery stores or ordering takeout,…

Cows, Pastured Livestock Might Help Fight Climate Change According to Studies

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Environmentalists have long targeted the beef industry because of the adverse effect that raising cows and producing meat and dairy products has on the environment. Allegedly, it hastens global warming because of the greenhouse gases…

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By Arwa Mahdawi   04/28/21  
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COVID-19 accelerates RethinkX predictions of meat and dairy collapse by 2030, founder says

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The COVID-19 pandemic has largely proven — and in some ways accelerated — think tank RethinkX's 2019 report saying the beef and dairy industries will collapse by 2030, James Arbib, RethinkX's founder, said at the virtual New…

Feeding cows seaweed could cut their methane emissions by 82%, scientists say

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Feeding seaweed to cows is a viable long-term method to reduce the emission of planet-heating gases from their burps and flatulence, scientists have found. Researchers who put a small amount of seaweed into the feed…

Cutting Out Beef Could Cut Agricultural Land Use In Half

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Treehugger has been writing about the problems of meat forever, we have been pitching vegetarian and vegan diets for years as a way of reducing one's carbon footprint, and we keep writing posts about reducing…

Three startups setting out to transform the food system

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KANSAS CITY — Entrepreneurs are developing disruptive solutions to address pressing health and environmental challenges. Perfect Day, Renewal Mill and The Better Meat Co. are among next-generation ingredient manufacturers championing change in the supply chain.

NYC Mayor’s Offices Urges Public To Reduce Meat Intake To Fight Climate Crisis

By Liam Giliver   03/02/21  
The NYC Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare is urging the public to reduce their meat intake to fight the climate crisis. It sent a newsletter to residents in partnership with World Animal Protection’s Meating Halfway campaign.

UN Climate Report Urges Shift Away From Meat and Dairy

By Liam Pritchett   02/26/21  
According to the UN climate report, “everyone has a role to play” in transforming humankind’s relationship with the natural world. This includes voting, minimizing waste, and moving away from high-impact animal products such as meat…

Fact check: Does growing meat consumption doom the earth to severe warming?

By Peter Singer   02/25/21  
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Meeting Paris Agreement ‘Impossible’ Unless Meat Production Is Reduced, Says Expert

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Meeting the Paris Climate Agreement is ‘impossible’ unless meat production is reduced, according to a food expert. Bruce Friedrich is the Executive Director of The Good Food Institute (GFI). The non-profit ties its work of…

Bill Gates: Rich nations should shift entirely to synthetic beef

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A New Study on Regenerative Grazing Complicates Climate Optimism

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A new, peer-reviewed paper on White Oak Pastures’ practices advances our understanding of the climate impact of beef and the potential for regenerative grazing to store carbon in the soil.

An unusual snack for cows, a powerful fix for climate

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One of the most powerful weapons in the fight against climate change is washing up on shorelines around the world, unnoticed by most beachgoers.

Checking in on the climate as you check out

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COOP DK, the Danish cooperative that controls one-third of the country’s grocery market, says it is trying to educate consumers with an eye toward nudging them to cut back on meat and dairy, two categories…

Interactive: What is the climate impact of eating meat and dairy?

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Food production accounts for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and takes up half of the planet’s habitable surface.

Will COVID-19 Make Big Meat Look Like a Bad Investment?

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Jeremy Coller would like to be remembered as a man who saved “a few cows from a factory farm.” But unlike animal rights activists who break into barns to document abusive practices or environmentalists who…

Less windy Whoppers? Low-methane Burger King still involves some hot air

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Lemongrass-fed cows mean more sustainable burgers, says the fast-food chain – but experts say there’s more work to be doneWhether showing off their burgers going mouldy due to lack of preservatives, making vegan Impossible Whoppers…

Turning manure into money

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Farmers and utilities are burning methane for energy — and curtailing a powerful greenhouse gas in the process

35 Mind-Shattering Facts Linking Factory Farming to Climate Change

Meat production is a leading cause of climate change, water waste, and deforestation. Why is everyone overlooking this again?

The Biogenic Carbon Cycle and Cattle

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Turning cow waste into clean power on a national scale

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A new partnership will convert waste from dairy cows into usable natural gas.

America’s milk industry is struggling. Don’t blame oat milk

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner   11/21/19  
Milk is falling out of fashion. In 2010, 55 billion pounds of milk were sold in the United States. By 2018, that figure dropped to 47.7 billion, a decline of about 13%.

Can regenerative agriculture reverse climate change? Big Food is banking on it.

By Gosia Wozniacka   10/29/19  
Regenerative agriculture works to draw carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil, but there’s an ongoing debate on how much carbon can be stored there and for how long.

Can a Burger Help Solve Climate Change?

By Tad Friend   09/30/19  
Eating meat creates huge environmental costs. Impossible Foods thinks it has a solution.

Will Climate Change Mean Less Farming in the West?

By Twilight Greenaway   09/16/19  
Colorado and California are rethinking water management for a hotter, drier future, while balancing urban water needs with the benefits agriculture brings to rural communities.

Stonyfield’s Sustainable Land Management Plan Focuses on Soil Health, Sequestering Carbon

By Roya Sabri   08/22/19  
We can look to Stonyfield Organic as an example of a corporation that has taken sustainability seriously from its inception. The company’s newest initiative focuses even more on agriculture.

What’s Meat Got to Do With It?

By Jonah Engel Bromwich and Sanam Yar   07/25/19  
In case you haven’t heard, they’re making meat out of plants. Burgers out of soy and coconut. Fried chicken out of jackfruit. Steaks out of “cooked wheat gluten.”

Is it possible to raise a carbon-neutral cow?

By Adele Peters   07/24/19  
In the rolling hills along a rural stretch of the California coastline south of San Francisco, researchers plunged small probes into the soil last year, took samples, and sent them to a lab to measure…