Viewpoint: ‘Trading one moral catastrophe for another’ — Why swapping beef for chicken won’t fix animal agriculture’s ‘devastating’ environmental impact

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Credit: Deer Run Farm/Virginia Tech
Credit: Deer Run Farm/Virginia Tech

[O]ften, the messaging is that we can save the world by switching out our beef consumption for chicken.

The problem with this message is  that switching beef for chicken basically amounts to trading one moral catastrophe for another.

To put it simply, it takes many, many more chicken lives than cow lives to feed people. Cows are big, so raising one produces about 500 pounds of beef — and at the rate at which the average American eats beef, it takes about 8.5 years for one person to eat one cow. But chickens are much smaller, producing only a few pounds of meat per bird, with the average American eating about one whole chicken every two weeks

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And chicken is no panacea for the climate either. “Its impact on the climate only looks benign when compared with beef’s,” [Mercy for Animals President Leah] Garces points out. “Greenhouse gas emissions per serving of poultry are 11 times higher than those for one serving of beans, so swapping beef with chicken is akin to swapping a Hummer with a Ford F-150, not a Prius.”

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