Eating vegan food is more energy-efficient and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than raising animals to consume.
Firstly, the feed given to grain-fed animals (which accounts for two-thirds of all farmed animals) requires a heavy input of oil – primarily in the machinery and the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in the process.
Energy is then used in…
- fuel to transport the grain to the manufacturers;
- who then use more machinery to process the feed;
- and then transport the food to the farms;
- who then transport the animals to the slaughterhouse;
- where more machinery is used to kill the animals;
- before transporting the meat to processing factories;
- where yet more machinery is used to package the meat;
- before it’s transported to the shops;
- where it is kept refrigerated or frozen until it’s sold;
- then taken home and cooked (for typically longer periods and higher temperatures than non-animal products).
This explains why scientists at Cornell University found that to produce one calorie of food energy from beef requires 40 calories of fossil fuel energy. In comparison, one calorie of human-edible grain takes 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy. [i]
As Mark Bittman, food journalist and author, describes it:
…eating a typical steak for a family of four is the equivalent, energy-wise, of driving around in an SUV for three hours – while leaving all the lights on at home!
[i] Pimental, D., 2003. ‘Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment’. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/660S.full (Assessed 16 August 2014).