Slate examines the “greenness” of our addiction to red meat:
Meat is not sweet, ecologically speaking. According to an extensive U.N. report from 2006, the livestock industry not only uses more land than any other human activity; it’s also one of the largest contributors to water pollution and a bigger source of greenhouse-gas emissions than all the world’s trains, planes, and automobiles combined.
You can do a lot for the planet simply by cutting back your overall meat intake—food writer Michael Pollan recently suggested that if Americans went meatless one night a week, it would be equivalent to taking “30 to 40 million cars off the road for a year.”
As a general rule, red meat—beef, lamb, goat, and bison—are the worst offenders. A recent report for Defra, the British government’s environmental authority, compared common animal products across seven categories: use of energy, pesticides, land, and nonrenewable resources; and impacts on global warming, acidification, and eutrophication (a kind of water pollution in which excess nutrients lead to fish-killing algae blooms).
Beef and lamb got the poorest marks of all meats in terms of energy usage, global warming, and eutrophication. Beef also used the most land, had the highest acidification impacts, and came close to the bottom in the remaining categories. Lamb did better, though—in fact, it scored the highest of all meats in terms of pesticide and nonrenewable resource usage. All in all, chicken and turkey were the greenest meats surveyed.
Now you know.