How much ENERGY (in BTUs) is expended or used to produce 1 pound of beef, 1 pound of chicken, and 1 pound of pork for retail consumption?
Hi! Thanks for your request on the amount of energy expended to produce one pound of beef, chicken, and pork. In short, it takes 107482.461345 BTUs of energy to produce 1 pound of beef, 42992.984538 BTUs to produce 1 pound of pork, and 15013.423172 BTUs to produce 1 pound of chicken. Beef also has the largest water footprint in production, as well as the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions during production and post-production. Below, you will find a deep dive of my methodology and findings.
In order to answer your request, we searched academic databases, industry reports, government databases, and trusted media sites in search of the energy required to produce one pound of beef, chicken, and pork. Although from 2010, the most useful source we identified was the Oil Drum, which provided a list of foods by energy to produce one pound. These measurements were provided in kilowatt hours. An online calculator tool was then utilized to convert these numbers to BTUs, as requested. During our search, we came across several sources addressing the water use and carbon footprint associated with beef, chicken, and pork production, so we have included this information, as well, in hopes that it will be of interest to you.
ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN BTUS
According the Oil Drum, it takes more much more energy to product beef than chicken or pork, requiring 31.5 kWh of energy to product 1 pound of beef. Using the online calculator tool, this translates to 107482.461345 BTUs of energy. Producing 1 pound of pork requires 12.6 kWh of energy, or 42992.984538 BTUs. Producing 1 pound of chicken requires 4.4 kWh of energy, or 15013.423172 BTUs.
Along with energy consumption, water consumption is a major concern for many. Reportedly, if current trends in water use continue, demand will exceed supply by 40% by the year 2030. A recent article in EcoCentric examines the water necessary to produce one pound of food, or the water footprint. Similar to that found in energy consumption, beef maintains that highest water footprint of all foods, requiring 1,799 gallons to produce 1 pound of beef. This is equivalent to a person taking 90 8-minute showers. The largest contributor to beef’s significant water footprint is the amount of water necessary to grow cattle feed.
Beef is followed by pork, at 576 gallons per pound, and chicken, at 468 gallons per pound. These numbers can be compared to the 303 gallons of water necessary to produce 1 pound of tofu.
GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
Foods also produce greenhouse gas emissions during and after production. Beef, chicken, and pork are among the highest producers of these gases. According to the Business Insider, production and post-production emissions for beef total 27.0 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of beef consumed. Pork totals 12.1 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of pork consumed, followed by chicken, at 6.9 total kg of carbon dioxide per kg of chicken consumed. When comparing these figures to that of tofu production, which results in only 1.0 kg of production emissions and 1.0 kg of post-production emissions, it is easy to see how the production of beef, pork, and chicken have a greater negative impact on the environment.
To wrap it up, beef has the largest carbon footprint among most foods, and requires more energy in production than pork or chicken. Research shows it takes 107482.461345 BTUs of energy to produce 1 pound of beef, 42992.984538 BTUs to produce 1 pound of pork, and 15013.423172 BTUs to produce 1 pound of chicken. Beef also has the largest water footprint in production, as well as the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
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