Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 30, 2023


Mark Rifkin, Center for Biological Diversity, (410) 227-6161,
Diego Rose, Tulane University,

Study: 12% of Americans Account for 50% of U.S. Beef Consumption

NEW ORLEANS— New research from Tulane University, supported by the Center for Biological Diversity, found that half of all beef eaten on a given day in the United States is consumed by 12% of the population.

Eating too much meat is unhealthy and causes serious environmental harm. One-third of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are due to human food systems, with animal agriculture accounting for about half of those emissions. Beef is especially damaging because of the significant amounts of methane produced by cattle and accounts for over 50 times the emissions of beans.

“Animal agriculture, especially beef, is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. It’s a leading cause of climate change, habitat loss, water pollution and pesticide use,” said Mark Rifkin, senior food and agriculture policy specialist at the Center. “As the harms from climate change continue to bear down on us, we can’t afford to ignore the devastating chaos that meat-heavy diets dish out.”

The research, released today in the journal Nutrients, found men were more likely than women to consume a disproportionate beef diet, defined by the study’s authors as more than 4 ounces of beef per 2,200 calories. Older adults, college graduates and those who looked up the MyPlate educational campaign online were less likely to consume a diet disproportionately focused on beef.

“Given the harm from beef consumption to the environment and to people’s health, it’s helpful to know who is consuming these lopsided diets so we can better target educational programs,” said Diego Rose, one of the study’s authors.

A 2020 study by the University of Michigan and Tulane University and supported by the Center found that if U.S. beef consumption were reduced by 90% along with a 50% reduction in consumption of other animal products, it would prevent more than 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. That’s roughly equivalent to taking nearly half the world’s cars off the roads for a year.

“Many Americans are eating nearly eight times more beef in a day than what’s recommended for an Earth-friendly diet,” said Rifkin. “There’s no way around the fact that if we’re going to address climate change, we have to eat a lot less beef.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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