How Cows Kill Rainforests: The Flip-Side of an All Beef Patty. ~ Beth Doane

Via elephant journal
on Feb 25, 2013
get elephant's newsletter


Fifty-five square feet of rainforest is destroyed for every quarter pound hamburger that comes from a cleared rainforest cattle farm.

While most of us blame automotive and industrial emissions for pollution, climate change and global warming, livestock farming actually generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all transport combined, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization.

What’s worse is that in countries like Brazil, which contain massive amounts of tropical rainforest, activities such as cattle ranching are destroying vast amounts of land. For example, between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometers of forest—an area larger than the country of Greece.

Here are some basic facts on how our increasing meat consumption—and the ranching practices that support our consumption—are killing more than just rainforests:

Our Eating Habits:

If people ate the plants fed to animals, there would be more than enough food to eliminate world hunger.

Our cattle and other farmed animals consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—which is more than the world’s population of 7 billion. Yet the animals can’t produce nearly enough meat, milk and eggs to feed everyone.

Meat-based diets require 10-20 times as much land as plant-based diets—and nearly half of the world’s grains & soybeans are fed to animals.

Although we make up less than five percent of the world’s population, Americans consume almost 25 percent of the world’s beef.

Deforestation and Pollution:

Fifty-five square feet of rainforest is destroyed for every quarter pound hamburger that comes from a cleared rainforest cattle farm.

In the past 20 years, Costa Rica (as well as most of Brazil) has lost the majority of its forests to beef cattle ranching. This slash and burn farming is believed to account for 50 percent of all rainforest destruction.

Animal waste and feed dump more pollutants into our waterways than all other human activities combined.

Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information & Policy Branch stated, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”

Over half of the water used in the United States goes to beef production. It takes an average of 2500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of red meat.

With the amount of water it takes to produce one pound of red meat, farmers can grow up to 100 pounds of grain.

One hundred pounds of grain can feed four people for a month. One pound of beef can feed four people a dinner.

The Animals Themselves:

Approximately 98 percent of the meat, milk and eggs sold in America comes from animals raised on factory farms, which are also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).

At any given time, there are about 20 billion farmed animals on the planet, which is more than three times the total human population.

Factory farms often use methods such as genetic manipulation to force modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day—10 times more than they would produce naturally. (I have not had milk in more than 10 years because of this and even a tiny bit of research on this topic will unfold many a dirty dairy industry secret.)

Factory farms are designed to limit animals’ movement, both to conserve space and so animals don’t expend calories and lose weight. Severe overcrowding and poor sanitation causes intense stress and spreads disease. Yummy-diseased cow for dinner.

Animals are kept alive under the filthy conditions at factory farms by feeding them massive amounts of antibiotics. They are also given hormones and genetically bred for rapid growth.

Industrial fishing is also environmentally devastating. Commercial fisheries locate schools of fish using satellite-tracking equipment, and cover miles of ocean with gigantic nets that trap everything in their path, killing millions of animals that are not even valued by the industry, such as sea turtles, dolphins, and sea lions.

Due to over-fishing in the wild, most fish now come from fish farms. Raised in overcrowded caged enclosures, farmed fish live in water infested with bacteria that forms from a surplus of excrement. When the fish are ready for market, they are dumped into large mesh cages where they suffocate to death.

From our friends at Living Green Magazine.

living green magBeth Doane is a contributor to Living Green Magazine (LGM), LGM informs and educates readers with environmental news and lifestyle articles. It highlights nonprofit causes and provides sustainable solutions for individuals, families, businesses and communities. Its readers come in all shades of green, and want to create a healthy environment for themselves and others. Living Green Magazine–Where Green Is Read.

Like elephant green on Facebook.

Asst. Ed: Sara Crolick/ Ed: Lynn Hasselberger


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of Questions? Send to


8 Responses to “How Cows Kill Rainforests: The Flip-Side of an All Beef Patty. ~ Beth Doane”

  1. Padma Kadag says:

    Are the ranchers doing the clear cutting or is it timber interests? If all that is left after clearcutting is grass then that would explain the interest in grazing. Not sure that the cows themselves have anything to do with it.

  2. Everyone loves what you guys are up too. This kind
    of clever work and exposure! Keep up the terrific works guys
    I’ve you guys to blogroll.

  3. free dating says:

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your content seem to be running off the screen
    in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know.

    The design look great though! Hope you get the problem resolved soon.

  4. Ruthie says:

    this argument is totally flawed/ false. check out the work of lierre keith. we are all against factory farms, and of course that land should be used differently, for the sake of animals, soil and humans. check out "the vegetarian myth: food, justice and sustainability"

  5. Ruthie says:

    " To clarify: I know that factory farms are horrible and it's terrible that rainforests are being destroyed of course. but THIS is the statement that I am saying is misguided :
    "If people ate the plants fed to animals, there would be more than enough food to eliminate world hunger."

  6. Ruthie says:

    and not such a great title. cows don't kill rain forests– it's definitely humans who destroy rain forests. and by the way, lots of vegetarian food is farmed in such a way that's also terrible for the environment (and kills animals)…. im hoping to help the movement to dispel some of these myths! check out the weston price foundation!

  7. Thanks for ones info, I’ll be checking in..thanks

  8. beef online says:

    So sad but there are some heartless people out there.