The Impact of Meat Production on The Environment Part 4

The Impact of Meat Production on

The Environment

Courtesy and Credit :

Mr.Prashant Parikh, Georgia Institute of Technology

 Part 4

  • Transportation of Cattle within the US and the energy associated with it

There are two main points of the entire process of production of beef where transportation plays an imperative role:

1) The transportation of cattle from the fields to the slaughterhouses.
2) Maintain trucks for transportation

Although both parts of the transportation are important, it would be logical to stress more importance on the transportation of cattle since maintaining live animals requires a lot more energy. The next few pages will discuss the transportation of cattle from the fields to the slaughterhouses in a step by step process, evaluating the energy required at every step.

  • Transportation of livestock:


Getting the cattle ready for a rigorous trip will help them be in good condition upon arrival of their final destination. There are three major components to preconditioning: feeding and watering, veterinary care and stress reduction.

Feeding and watering are imperative to reduce stress levels of the animals. It is vital to transport animals that have been on a good pre-transport diet; more importantly if the cattle are on a green pasture or a moist area, the cattle will generally have enough water to be able to withstand the rigorousness of transportation. It is also important to withhold feeding for cattle that are being transported in extremely cold weather; this prevents them from soiling on each other. Also,avoiding feeding cattle with succulent and a high energy diet will prevent wet manure. However, if the cattle are being transported to the final slaughtering, it is fine if they continue on their high energy diet.

Feeding cattle 50 to 75 percent length hay and 25 to 50 percent grain foods is vital during the 24 hours before transport. The exact percentage of hay and grain foods required for cattle depend on the maturity of the cattle. Therefore, older cattle need less grain food and more hay so that the cattle have normal digestion during transport. (Nyayapathi, 4)

Appropriate veterinary care must be given when cattle are being imported to a different country. If the cattle are being moved from one state to another, then it is appropriate to check the regulations of the state they are being imported to. Health conditions are vital for transportation and for the ultimate slaughtering so consistently checking these conditions is a beneficial aspect for the cattle and the consumers. (Nyayapathi, 4)

To reduce the stress that is involved in transport, it is crucial to familiarize cattle with the surroundings they will be around during transport.

  • Pre-transportation diet calculations:

Average human weight: 76 kg
Average human consumes approximately: 2000 calories/day
Average weight of all cattle: 1660 kg
Therefore assuming all cattle consumes 3.5x an average human, the average cattle consumption per day is approximately: 7000 calories/day

As you will see further in this paper, there are approximately 33,300,000 cattle being transported to slaughterhouses every year.

Every day there are approximately 91233 cattle being transported to a slaughterhouse.

So, on a daily basis (assuming cows eat 8500 calories/day before transportation), for pre-transportation diet approximately

775,480,000 calories are consumer per day.

In terms of joules, 1 calorie = 4.2 joules

So on a daily basis approximately 18,463,965 joules of food are

consumed on a daily basis for pre-transportation diet.

Preparation of Transport Vehicles

The appropriate preparation of transporting cattle will prevent them from getting sick from disease and avoid injury to the stock that is being transported. Bedding of the vehicles, transportation temperatures and cleaning are three parts that are important in transporting cattle. The details of these three parts will be discussed in detail in the next few pages.

Bedding the transportation vehicles are vital for the cattle to stay in shape. Three materials will be used for bedding in this particular scenario: sawdust, straw and sand. Sawdust is absorbent and light. It is generally good for swine, but in our particular situation sawdust can be used to keep up the moisture and it will help keep the cattle cool during warm months. Straw generates heat and helps keep the cattle warm, sand serves the same purpose as well. Generally sawdust needs to be 5 cm deep, straw 9 cm deep and sand 1 cm deep Truck maintenance plays the most important role in energy usage. More importantly, many green initiatives have been implemented in cleaning trucks due to the high amount wastes and energy going into this aspect. (Nyayapathi 5)

Temperature is an imperative aspect for transporting cattle, especially during warm months. Generally, the temperature is maintained via venting holes in the trucks themselves. These holes help keep the truck ventilated.


Assuming average temperature needed in truck is approximately 75 degrees Celsius

Average cold weather
(50 degrees Fahrenheit)
Average warm weather
(80 degrees Fahrenheit)
Degrees in Celsius 10 degrees Celsius 27 degrees celsius
Average room temperature
(assuming 25 cattle per truck)
22 degrees Celsius 22 degrees Celsius

Cleaning trucks are vital for transportation of livestock. This will decrease their chance of being infected and will also meet the regulations of the country or state they are being imported into. Using hot water (generally temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit) is used to clean trailers. Then the manure needs to be removed in the trucks and these wastes can be reused as fertilizer for a “green” environment practice. In the calculations below we are assuming that 200 liters of water is used to clean one truck. (Nyayapathi 5)

As seen from table above, the average room temperature taken in this calculation is 22 degrees Celsius. Also, converting 180 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius would be approximately 82 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, by taking the difference from the average temperature of water used to clean trucks and the room temperature we get delta Celsius to be 60 degrees Celsius.

1 liter kilogram = 1 kilo cal
200 liters of water used per truck * 60 degrees delta Celsius * 1 kilocal * 4.2 Joules/ calorie
= Approximately 52 MJ of energy used to clean one truck

When packages are bulked, there is a different protocol when it comes to packing the beef. The meat has to be frozen and stockpiled. Sometimes the meat is bulked together so it can be further processed, and when this occurs the package is not lined with plastic. Usually the packaging company will layer the meat with wax paper or plastic material that can easily be used in a vacuumed environment. In special cases, like diced meat, the items should be packaged in plastic bags or casings. When it comes to filled bags and casings, all the air pickets should be forcefully pushed out through the open end and should be covered by metal or plastic clips,tying, or folding the bag or casing completely over to cover the meat. A very common way beef is cut and packed is in the shape of patties. When it comes to patties, they should be packed in boxes completely lined with plastic bags. Patties that are at times individually quick frozen, need to be packed in fiberboard boxes lined with plastic bags. As seen, there are a lot of techniques elements that go into the physical packing of the beef.

The National Beef Packing Company has made a move to help decrease waste and pollution by switching to reusable plastic bins. These new bins will help eliminate the use of wood pallets and corrugate gaylords during the packaging process. Since the new Combo Bins are reusable and recyclable, this helps the National Beef by making the packaging environmentally sustainable. This new packaging system will also be able to sustain freight transportation when needed. The National Beef has set up a fifteen thousand square feet service facility where the bins can be washed and prepped again for use. The amount of use depends on the ware and tare of the package during its transportation. This new system greatly reduces global warming and waste when compared to past ways of transporting beef.

Another key concept of packaging is the safety portion. The safety doesn’t play a big role at first with global warming, but if the meat does get infected, it takes energy to get rid of the certain bacteria. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has gone to great extremes to prevent these bacterial and infections to occur. There is a code inspection that has to be passed by meat producers called Federal Meat Inspection Act. Having these acts in place helps with control of production of meat and the safety of the consumer. Having the quality grading system helps in the long run of not creating waste that has to be disposed of later.

  • Conclusion :

A Reasonable Suggestion: The Benefits of going vegetarian for two days a week Water use:



Though the environmental impact of the meat industry isn’t immediately evident to the common man, the numbers we have calculated serve as evidence of the very fact. It is surprising to know that our eating habits can cause so much damage to the environment, and even tiny changes can lead to a largely positive outcome. It is not very unreasonable to say that one could cut down on their consumption of meat by two days a week, if not stop it completely.

Over the last half century, consumption of meat has grown enormously, as seen in the figure below, and it is very much possible, that with the right knowledge there could be another paradigm shift and we may see the trend reversing once again. That will be in the best interest of individual, society, and environment.


At present times what seems to be asking for much, might not be so in the future. From every process; ranging from fodder production, slaughtering, waste removal, storage, packaging and transportation, the harm done to the environment is beyond justification, thus we conclude our paper.

Thanking Mr.Prashant Parikh for realistic article..
HariH Aum


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