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Carbon McCredits

Dear Lazyweb,

What's the rough amount of greenhouse gas emissions that go into a typical hamburger? I mean the entire process of raising, feeding, killing, packing, shipping, grinding and distributing the beef, from barnyard to bun. Extra points for including the effects of the lifetime methane output of the cattle.

It seems to me that the calculation would have to include:

• What portion of a beef cow goes into a single typical burger?
• A cow's portion of the energy consumption of ranch over the cow's lifetime.
• The energy required to grown and ship the feed for a cow over its lifetime.
• Energy required to "process" the cow to turn it into hamburger.
• Shipping the raw (and likely frozen) burger to a restaurant.
• Energy needed to cook the burger.

We can leave aside the energy costs of the bun and produce, at least for now.

The underlying question is this: how many "carbon credits" would one need to purchase per burger to offset this greenhouse gas output?

(I'm not necessarily looking for someone to give me all the answers, but pointers to good resources for where I could find the answers myself would be appreciated.)


"Livestock Production and Energy Use" - David Pimentel, would be a great resource. Also his "Handbook of Energy Use in Agriculture"

but to sum up - it takes 28 calories of fossil fuel to grow a calorie's worth of beef

it takes 391 joules to cook a hamburger

all you need is average food transport distance data and you're off and running

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) does this type of calc, and pretty rigorously. Only the government and very large corporations can afford it, however.

See, for example: http://www.gdrc.org/uem/lca/life-cycle.html


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