Matters of Scale - The Price of Beef

Amount of greenhouse-warming carbon gas released by driving a typical American car, in one day
3 kilograms
Amount released by clearing enough Costa Rican rainforest to produce beef for one hamburger
75 kilograms
"American feed takes so much energy to grow - counting fuel for farm machinery and for making fertilizers and pesticides - that it might as well be a petroleum byproduct -Alan Thein Durning
If Costa Rican rainforest were cleared to produce enough cattle for the people of Costa Rica to eat as much beef, per person, as the people of the United States do, the Costa Rican forest would be completely gone in
1 year
If the Indonesian tropical forest were cleared to produce enough cattle for Indonesians to eat as much beef as the people of the United States do, the Indonesian forest - all 114 million hectares of it - would be gone in
3 1/2 years
"Brazil's leading newspaper O Globo reports 4 airport closures over the weekend of September 4 in northern Brazil due to smoke from burning in Amazon region. Ranchers ? burn off rainforests during the September to December dry season to clear land. This year, burning is up an estimated 35 percent over last year according to the publication. The paper speculates the increase is due to lack of interest in the subject following last year's Earth Summit in Rio." -Report on a computer network bulletin last Fall
When a hamburger produced by clearing forest in India would cost if the real costs were included in the price rather than subsidized
Price paid by American cattlemen for the use of government land to raise beef, per hamburger
1 cent
"Real food for real people." -Actor James Garner, speaking for the American beef industry in a TV commercial, shortly before he was hospitalized for a quintuple bypass heart operation
Number of kilograms of high-protein food produced by 5 kilograms of grain, if the grain is used to produce beef
Number of kilograms of high-protein food produced by 5 kilograms of grain if the grain is eaten directly (as cereal, bread, tofu, etc.)
Sources: Carbon gas emissions: Sandra Brown, professor of forestry, University of Illinois, cited in Alan Durning, "Fat of the Land," World Watch May/June 1991; Costa Rican and Indonesian forest depletion rates: Worldwatch estimate based on Brown and Durning; real cost of a hamburger: Centre for Science and the Environment, New Delhi, cited in Financial Times, January 1994; price paid by cattlemen: Worldwatch estimate based on average U.S. per-capita consumption of 65 lb. or 1/8 steer per year, and government grazing charge of $2 per head per month. Compiled by Ed Ayres.