Extinction Facts labels illustrate the high cost of meat consumption per serving

Extinction Facts
© Center for Biological Diversity

These intriguing labels, created by the Center for Biological Diversity, show consumers exactly what goes into each hamburger, chicken breast, and serving of bacon on their plate.

The Center for Biological Diversity has created a series of faux nutrition labels called “Extinction Facts” that highlight the environmental impact of three popular foods in the American diet – chicken breasts, bacon, and hamburgers. In the United States, meat is eaten at a rate of four times the global average, approximately 50 billion pounds a year. This comes at a serious cost.

Meat production is hard on the environment in a variety of ways, especially when it’s on the scale at which the North American diet demands. It emits greenhouse gases from all the manure generated, particularly by beef cattle. It uses tons of water and pollutes nearby water sources. It accounts for extreme antibiotic use and pesticide use. It destroys natural habitats through grazing and the constant expansion of production.

dietary impact on Earth© Center for Biological Diversity

The Extinction Facts labels, designed in the style of the Food and Drug Administration’s nutrition labels, are a quick and simple way of communicating the impact of having meat on one’s plate. A press release from the Center for Biological Diversity explains further:

“The labels share the effects of each serving as well as the total consumption in the United States. For example, Americans eat an average of three hamburgers per person per week, which cumulatively requires more than 21 trillion gallons water to produce. Americans also eat enough chicken to destroy 12.4 million acres of wildlife habitat, the equivalent of 12 million football fields. And American bacon consumption comes at a cost of 331 billion pounds of pig manure — which could fill 60,667 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

The Center points out that reducing meat consumption goes a lot further toward reducing one’s personal environmental footprint than adopting green practices such as water-saving showerheads and toilets. These are mere drops in the bucket compared to saying no to a hamburger.

use less water graphic© Center for Biological Diversity

Part of the Center’s motivation for creating the Extinction Facts stems from its frustration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for leaving environmental concerns out of its new nutritional guidelines. Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in an October 2015 blog post that the new Dietary Guidelines were not an “appropriate vehicle” for addressing the important policy conversation about sustainability. Considering that other countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden have all done precisely that, Vilsack's statement is rather absurd. The United States lags far behind the rest of the world in educating its population and has lost an excellent opportunity to do so by leaving it out of the guidelines.

Education, therefore, falls to others, hence the Center’s catchy new labels. Read, learn, and share with your family and friends to encourage others to “rewild” their plates and to make dietary choices that do not harm the planet in the process.

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