Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering
Based on previous studies, it has been stated that beef production and consumption in the United States is detrimental to the environment. However, in depth studies analyzing the change of beef production and consumption, the environmental impacts, the external costs, the lifestyle implications as well as the nutritional, the social and the cultural aspects of beef have not been conducted. The goal of this study is to analyze the multiple aspects of the dilemma over beef production and consumption. This was done through an analysis of beef production and consumption data over the past 60 years to determine how it has changed in the United States. Life cycle assessments of varying cattle farming processes were completed to compare the varying impacts different processes have on the environment through impact analysis and external cost calculations. For the three cattle farming processes analyzed the top five impacts for all were: human non-carcinogenic toxicity, marine ecotoxicity, freshwater ecotoxicity, human carcinogenic toxicity, and global warming. It was found that cattle farming through the ‘pasture and feedlot’ process was the least environmental taxing due to the cattle being slaughtered at half the lifespan compared to the ‘pasture’ process and occupying less land than the ‘pasture and proteic supplement’ method. The lowest external cost was also associated with the ‘pasture and feedlot’ cattle farming process. Beef consumption amounts were altered from the average diet using a life expectancy calculator to investigate the impact on the human lifespan for changes in diets beginning at 1 year old, 30 years old, and 60 years old. A nutritional comparison was completed for beef and its alternatives, and social and cultural effects of beef production and consumption were researched. It was determined that beef consumption per capita has decreased due to triple the number of poultry being consumed on average per year from 1961 to 2018, as well as a larger increase in beef costs compared to other types of meat. Based on current popular beef alternatives in the market, beef has the same nutritional quality but also provides necessary vitamins that are not found naturally in the alternative protein sources. Reduction or depletion of beef production and consumption would not only impact diets, but also create issues within the economy and alternates to beef production byproducts would also need to be created for fertilizers and pet foods. While excess consumption of beef is not ideal for human health, based on current and past trends, the consumption and production of beef per capita will continue to decrease in the United States.
Beef production, Beef consumption, Beef sustainability, Beef environmental impact, Beef nutrition, United States
Swilling, H. A., de Rosmini, S., & Lovan, B. (2022). The Environmental and Nutritional Dilemma of Beef Production and Consumption. Chemical Engineering Undergraduate Honors Theses Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/cheguht/185
Available for download on Sunday, April 28, 2024