Under Construction
This page is in the early stages of development.
We use "cost" here to refer to both the financial ($) cost and environmental cost (greenhouse gas, pollution, non-renewable resource depletion ...)

  • Greenhouse gas contribution and non-renewable resource depletion from the food chain
  • Biodiversity costs
  • Environmental damage from farming, fishing, ...
  • Health and Safety

* Greenhouse gas (GHG) contribution and non-renewable resource depletion from the food chain

Farmers markets:
There is a lot of talk about buying local to save transportation contribution to GHGs.
Food trucked 2,000 miles uses about a gallon of fuel per 150 pounds of food. If you traveled 15 miles one way to a farmer's market in a car that got 30 MPG you would have to buy 150 pounds of food to be worthwhile in GHG savings.
However there are other advantages in freshness, supporting the local economy, cost of packaging, etc. to using farmer's markets.

Replacing meat with vegetables:
It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of beef protein; 35 calories for 1 calorie of pork; 22 calories for 1 of poultry; but just 1 calorie of fossil fuel for 1 calorie of soybeans.
It takes 4.8 pounds of grain fed to cattle to produce one pound of beef for consumption.
It takes 3 to 15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does plant protein.
Water required to produce 1 pound of U.S. beef, according to the Cattlemen’s Association: 441 gallons (most sources estimate the number considerably higher – the Water Education Foundation puts the number around 2,464 gallons). It takes a lot less water to produce fruits and vegetables. According to the U.C. Agricultural Extension, it takes only 23 gallons of water to produce a pound of lettuce – and only 49 gallons to produce a pound of apples.

According to the British group Vegfam, a 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn and only two producing cattle.

* Biodiversity costs

By-catch - Un-targeted fish (dolphins, turtles, ...) trapped in nets or longlines while fishing for other species and are often killed.
Trawls that are used to catch bottom-dwelling fish like flounder, cod, rockfish and shrimp damage the sea bead.

* Environmental damage from farming, fishing, ...

Packaging - Both hydrocarbons (oil and energy) in producing the packaging and the disposal of plastics have a negative effect on the environment.

Pollution from pesticide/herbicide runoff from farms.
Energy-intensive U.S. factory farms generated 1.4 billion tons of animal waste in 1996, which, the Environmental Protection Agency reports, pollutes American waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.

* Health and Safety

Effect of water pollution on seafood safety.
Chemicals in farm raised fish.
Exposure to livestock drugs.
Pesticide and herbicide residue on food.
Tainted food (bacteria, ...) from shortcuts taken to improve productivity.
Vegetables have less fat and cholesterol.

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
The Food Revolution, John Robbins
Cadillac Desert, Mark Reisner

Food Consumption & Its Environmental Impact at Sierra Club
SeafoodWATCH® - A Consumer's Guide to Sustainable Seafood: at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Pocket Guide, Chart of Alternatives
Grass Fed Beef and Methane
49 Reasons For Being A Vegetarian
The Ecological Costs of Meat
Vegfam Charity in the UK helps people overseas by providing funds for self-supporting, sustainable food projects and the provision of safe drinking water.

Return to Environment

last updated 5 May 2008