Food Waste: Reducing the Transport of Cows

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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In 2019 America, humans acquire large quantities of beef without thinking too much about the environmental impacts the beef was involved in in getting from point A to point B. Going all the way back to the cow, beef plays quite a large role in the destruction of our environment. When most people get this picture, they would get the idea that it relates to the amount of gas consumed by the delivery vehicle to deliver the fresh beef to companies such as restaurants and supermarkets. However, the destructive impact of beef goes far beyond that, including increased land usage, decreased water availability, increased pesticides used on feed crops, increased animal feed and waste, and an increased use of electricity (Capper, 2011). In fact, according to recent data, humans do not have exact measurements on how destructive the force of beef is to the environment.

The transportation of beef has several impacts, as noted in a study by Baroni, Cenci, Tettamanti, & Berati (2007), and its impacts are classified as being either short-term, medium-term, and long-term. The study also found that, on an average Italian diet, the transportation and the consumption of beef leads to about 2.5 times greater impact on the environment. The environmental impact of transporting beef has a wide impact on a carbon footprint (Baroni et al., 2007). In fact, the study also found that beef had the highest environmental impact on an omnivore’s diet (Baroni et al., 2007). Whether it be through an increased water use, higher fossil fuel use in the transport process, increased land usage, higher carbon emissions (Capper, 2011), or adversaries like carcinogens and destruction of the ozone layer (Baroni et al., 2007), the transportation of beef affects quite a large area of the Earth. These practices have been going on for roughly 40 years, but it appears to be slowing down some as the beef transportation and packaging is becoming eco-friendlier.

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Transportation of beef also includes moving the cattle from one place to another in order to find and consume enough food to eat. During this process, fossil fuels are being burned up more often during the winter months (Capper, 2012). The biggest use of fossil fuels in beef transportation, though, is the use of machines for cropping and harvesting enough food for the cattle (Capper, 2012). While the beef-transportation system is dangerous, the system continues to operate because humans need milk and meat to survive. Capper (2011) noted that humans cannot survive on just a vegetable diet. If humans are to survive, they need to consume both meat and milk, two products we get from cows every day. If a lowered meat consumption rate was achieved (without resorting to a vegetarian diet only), several environmental hazards would either be reduced or reversed (Baroni et al., 2007). However, the same study noted that people are generally reluctant to change their eating habits, so that reversal of environmental hazards dream may be achieved sometime in the future. Humans cannot wait too long, though, because the sustainability levels of the Earth may not have enough to harvest from the environment to ensure survival (Baroni et al., 2007). Reducing the transportation of beef could lead to a start in the fight against environmental destruction.

Packaging beef also plays a hazardous role in beef transportation. Most beef is packaged in with microbiomes that could serve as monitors of how fresh the beef is, although, compared with the different levels of beef-packaging (such as traditional plastic wrap or vacuum-sealing), the levels of microbiomes stayed roughly the same (Galgano, Favati, Bonadio, Lorusso, & Romano, 2009). The same study also found that vacuum-sealing the beef, instead of exposing it to air and contaminates in the air, would be beneficial to the environment (Galgano et al., 2009). The microbiomes that are present as freshness indicators increase over time. The higher the level of some spoilage bacteria present in the beef, the more likely it is that the beef is spoiled (Galgano et al., 2009). Throwing out spoiled beef would result in the bacteria being unleashed into the environment. Humans have come up with the idea of freezing the beef once it has been packaged. This turns out to reduce the formation of certain microbiomes that would develop over time, with the microbiome of histamine being the lowest amount in the colder temperatures (Galgano et al., 2009). Whether it is in packaging, storage, or transportation, the microbiome levels in the beef do not really change a whole lot. Different packaging conditions lead to different bacteria causing the beef to spoil over time, though, so each packaging method and each indicator of beef freshness would change if a new system was put in place over any old systems (Galgano et al., 2009). Compared to the other pieces of data, the packaging process of beef transportation may seem like it caused the least amount of damage, but it helps contribute to some of the bigger problems.

The transportation of beef also includes injecting the cows with growth-inducing hormones in order to produce more beef. These growth hormones play a role in destructing the environment, as well. One study (Capper, 2011) noted that, due to an increase in supply and demand of beef, humans have long-been injecting rapid growth inducing drugs into the cows to help them grow up and fatten up at a faster rate. Only modern research is showing the world what is in the injections and how long humans have either been directly or indirectly affected by the growth hormones. Once those hormones are injected into other species, the same changes could appear and accelerate harmful effects that could possibly help change a species from the ground up through the process of genetics. Humans can also be affected by this well, which means that no species on the Earth could be safe from dangerous injections.

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Another example of beef transportation is found in how much land and water use is consumed to ensure that the cows have enough food and water to drink. The water component of the beef transportation module is mainly used for drinking and irrigation (Capper, 2012). The usage of water to raise beef conflicts with the availability of water for humans to drink, which makes the process of beef transportation harder (Capper, 2012). One study (Capper, 2011) documented that transporting beef within smaller distances results in increased land and water use. Transporting cows to find enough land available for grazing and enough water to drink is necessary to the survival of the herd, but that availability is limited to an increasing number of factors. The factors of excessive water use, the high amount of pollutants being dumped into the water, and the increased loss of wetlands, making land and water an increasingly tough resource to find (Capper, 2011). This trend will continue, though, as an increase in the human population and an increase in supply and demand will continue to cause the total amount of available land and water to diminish as more beef will be consumed (Capper, 2012). Beef suppliers and transporters will have to come up with new ways to match the supply with the demand.

In conclusion, the transportation of beef is more than just moving a cow from point A to point B. Beef transportation consumes a large number of resources on an already smaller resource-filled planet. Beef production has taken some steps to fight back against the destruction of the Earth and its available resources, but it may take years before a steady rate can be achieved. Modern data about how dangerous different aspects of beef transportation and packaging have emerged, but it is only a small step for man to continue the fight to protect the environment. If beef transportation continues at the current rate, future generations will have nowhere near the levels of land, water, food, and a wide variety of the resources that we have now. It is up to us to help protect the environment, and one step is to help lower the ecological hazards of transporting and packaging beef.

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Food Waste: Reducing the Transport of Cows. (2021, Nov 26). Retrieved from