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We all know that burgers aren’t the best foods for us to ingest the way some do. Driving through McDonald’s and picking up 10 burgers for a family dinner is not my ideal meal. In the time spent sitting in the drive through and waiting for them to microwave your pre-cooked, greasy burger, you could have grilled up a nice tofu burger or meat substitute patty, all the while knowing the calories you’re eating are also coupled with vitamins, proteins, and good-for-you-stuff rather than just fat.
There are a lot of negatives associated with participating in the “cheeseburger culture,” including the effects a cheeseburger can have on you, others, the environment, and animals, which can be found here on our OGP page.
So the next time you’re deliberating sitting in that drive-thru line waiting for a burger, contemplate the side-effects that are not only associated with your health, but our environment. Consider trying something at home, like some of our amazing burger recipes, which can be found here.
Calories and Nutritional Value
Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we? According to McDonald’s USA Nutritional Facts, a regular cheeseburger (and who has just one of those tiny things, honestly?) has 300 calories, 110 of which come from fat, 12 grams of fat which constitutes 20 percent of our daily value (based on a 2000 calorie diet), and 680 mg of sodium (29 percent of our daily value)-to highlight some of the basics. On the other hand, a Whole Foods Four Grain Tofu Burger (just the patty) has about 200 calories, only 4 grams of fat and a mere 180 mg of sodium. Granted any toppings or bun (try a lettuce wrap!) will increase some of these numbers, but the discrepancy in fats and calories are very diverse.
Now for the meaty information (sorry, I couldn’t resist). According to Jamais Cascio and his page breaking down the carbon footprint of one simple cheeseburger, called The Cheeseburger Footprint, one measly cheeseburger constitutes between 7 and 20 megajoules of energy used to feed, slaughter and freeze the cow, grow and mill the wheat for bread, and even the energy costs of pickling cucumbers for pickles.
The process is split into two parts-the first is the food production and transportation, which go into the diesel category (resulting in 4.7-10.8 MJ per burger) and the food processing, milling, cooking, and storage, which go into the electricity category (2.6-8.4 MJ per burger). These two categories are then converted into carbon dioxide emissions, based on fuel. Diesel leads to 350-800 grams of carbon dioxide per burger and for electricity, it is split between gas, 416-1340 grams per burger and coal, 676-2200 grams per burger. This leads us to 766 grams of CO2 per burger (at the low end) and 3,000 grams of CO2 (at the high end).
Then we have the methane. According to regulation laws, a cow must be 21 months old before going to the slaughterhouse. Cascio rounds this number to two years to break down the math a bit more simply. One cow produces about 110 kilos of methane per year in manure, so over this cow’s lifetime, it will produce roughly 220 kilos. A single kilo of methane is the equivalent of 23 kilos of carbon dioxide. The math results in 5,000 CO2-equivelent kilos of methane over this young cow’s lifetime.
This cow will then go on to provide approximately 500 pounds of meat. If a typical burger is ¼ pound, then this cow will produce 2,000 burgers, resulting in 2.6 CO2-equivelent kilos of additional gasses produced from methane.
The math is sobering even considering the low spectrum of everyone eating one cheeseburger per week (conservatively). 300,000,000 citizens times 50 burgers per year times 4.35 kilograms of CO2-equivelent per burger divided by 1000 kilograms per metric ton equals out to 65,250,000 annual metric tons of CO2-equivalent for all US burgers.
To put this number into perspective, consider this, one Hummer H3 SUV emits around 10 metric tons of CO2 over the course of a year. So 65,250,000 metric tons from burgers divided by 10 metric tons per SUV equals the equivalent of 6.5 million SUVs.
When you consider the incredible stress that factory farming puts on the environment to produce that cheeseburger in addition to the stress that burger puts on your body, you may want to consider driving past that tin wrapped burger waiting on the drive-thru window.
Afterall, 6.5 million additional SUVs? No thank you. I like my air fresh, clean, and not laden down with additional gasses that are harmful to the environment simply to grab a quick burger on the run, rather than cook something delicious up at home.
Image Source: Burger Austen/Flickr