I need to do some research into this, but the thought came into my head while talking to a conservator at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust earlier this week. He works with marmosets in Brazil, now endangered by Brazil’s continuing growth as the world beef production capital.
Three or four reasons why it might:
- its highly energy-intensive (the energy required to produce one kilogram on a table in the UK is among the highest for any foodstuff)
- its water consumption is big (instant data from Fred Pearce’s book: 11,000 litres “to grow the feed for enough cow to make a quarter pound [100g] hamburger” – compared with 500 litres for a kilo of potatoes)
- commercial beef ranching creates a monoculture – and can even lead to desertification of the area.
These issues are all becoming more pressing, especially in the face of the triple challenge of population growth, resource shortage, and climate change. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before beef starts to become the subject of apology, or perhaps eaten rarely, with a guilty conscience, on special occasions (as it used to be in England when people were poorer and would have lamb or beef, if they could afford it, on Christmas Day.