Visualizing A Nation Of Meat Eaters

As Allison Aubrey and Dan Charles reported today on Morning Edition, meat has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat. That’s because livestock require so much more food, water, land, and energy than plants to raise and transport. (Listen to the audio above for their conversation with Morning Edition’s Linda Wertheimer.)

Take a look here at what goes into just one quarter-pound of hamburger meat.

And that’s not even including the animal’s waste or the methane emissions from its digestion.

Still, there are fewer cows around these days: Beef production peaked in 1976, as Dan Charles reported on Tuesday.

But to be clear, if you look at the last century, meat consumption in the U.S. rose dramatically. It’s only in the last few years that it has begun to drop a bit.

Though meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped off slightly in recent years, at 270.7 pounds per person a year, we still eat more meat per person here than in almost any other country on the planet. Only the Luxumbourgers eat more meat than we do.

As U.S. beef consumption began to decline in the 1970s, poultry began to rise quickly. A couple of years ago, chicken surpassed beef as our no. 1 meat of choice. Our consumption of pork has also risen slightly over the years.

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