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Meaty Issue: Study Says Beef Pollutes More Than Pork

Raising beef for the American dinner table does far more damage to the environment than producing pork, poultry, eggs or dairy, a new study says. Compared with the other animal proteins, beef produces five times more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out six times as much water-polluting nitrogen, takes 11 times more water for irrigation and uses 28 times the land, according to the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Cows are not efficient at converting feed to protein for human consumption, said lead author Gidon Eshel, an environmental physics professor at Bard College in New York. Eshel used U.S. government figures to calculate air and water emissions and how much water and land were used in the lifetime production of beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs.

The beef industry called the study "a gross oversimplification of the complex systems that make up the beef value chain." Kim Stackhouse, sustainability director at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said that the industry has improved its environmental sustainability in recent years and that the U.S. produces beef with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any country.

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— The Associated Press