The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers

Thesis: People shouldn’t eat hamburgers because they are bad for you and for the environment because they are wasteful.


  1. Waste:
  • 3,000-5,000 gal of water per lb of beef
  • pollutes streams and rivers
  • destruction of rainforest and soil- 257 burgers
  • release of CO2 and methane
  • destroys wildlife habitat
  • Half a burger requires enough energy to power your car for 3 weeks. (1)


(2) Health:

  • weight
  • heart
  • blood pressure





  • save massive amounts of water – 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water for every pound of beef you avoid,
  • avoid polluting our streams and rivers better than any other single recycling effort you do,
  • avoid the destruction of topsoil,
  • avoid the destruction of tropical forest,
  • avoid the production of carbon dioxide. (Your average car produces 3 kg/day of CO2. To clear rainforest to produce beef for one hamburger produces 75 kg of CO2. Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as driving your car for more than three weeks);
  • reduce the amount of methane gas produced. (I imagine the next bumper sticker: stop farts, don’t eat beef);
  • reduce the destruction of wildlife habitat, and
  • help to save endangered species.




The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers


America consumes an excessive amount of beef. Not only is beef bad for your health, but to raise it is extremely wasteful of natural resources. Did you know that by eating one less hamburger a week is the equivalent of driving your car for 350 mi? Beef can make you gain weight, it causes heart disease, it increases your blood pressure, it causes diabetes, but did you know that it is also especially harmful to the environment? People shouldn’t eat beef because it’s bad for their health; and for the environment, because it’s wasteful.  

Americans eat an average of three hamburgers per week, and America eats more than 48 billion hamburgers total per year. That’s three times more beef than any other country. America is the biggest beef producer in the world. Also, America’s beef consumption has doubled since WWII. A burger costs three to four dollars, which is pretty cheap. Billions of dollars are spent every year on beef production. But what is the hidden cost of hamburgers?

Cows produce a lot of greenhouse gases- as much as cars, planes, and trains. This is because we are raising an excessive quantity of livestock for hamburgers, thus causing a significant increase in the amount of greenhouse gases produced by cows in the atmosphere. One of their main byproducts is methane, which comes out as a gas. Cows fart because they are forced to eat feed made out of oats and corn to make them grow fatter, which they can’t digest; instead of grass, which is what their digestive system is built to eat. Methane is 21 percent more harmful than CO2 to the environment, contributing to global warming.

Another byproduct of cows that are raised for food consumption is nitrous oxide. Cows produce 500 million tons of poop per year- three times as much as we do. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more harmful than CO2. Cows produce ⅔ of all the nitrous oxide in the world. Fertilizer, used to grow the feed, also produces nitrous oxide. Seventeen billion pounds of fertilizer is produced each year. Cow poop and fertilizer run into rivers and oceans, producing algae that sucks out all the oxygen from the ocean, creating “dead zones”. Dead zones are areas of the ocean where no life exists. Cows produce more greenhouse gas than 22 million cars per year. One hundred fifty-eight million tons of greenhouse gases are produced every year. That’s as much as 34 factories. Shipping the beef also produces CO2.

Cows also take up a lot of space: 30 percent of Earth’s land area; mainly consisting of pastures and land to grow grain for feed. Rainforest space the size of a football field are plowed every second to make space to raise cows that will then make 257 hamburgers, destroying wildlife habitats. Animals take up eight times the amount of space we take up. Also, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of grain-fed beef.

So, what can we do to resolve this issue? People can buy grass-fed beef, which is much less harmful to the environment. As mentioned above, they could also reduce their average consumption of three hamburgers a week to two. We don’t have to become vegetarians, but we should certainly cut down on the beef and try to eat other meat instead, such as chicken, pork, and turkey. If people really like burgers, they can eat chicken, pork, or turkey burgers. Plus, why are they called hamburgers if they aren’t made of ham? If everyone were to try to give up beef for other less environmentally damaging meats, it would have a significant impact on the environment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *