The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers

BY Ellen Rolfes  August 2, 2012 at 5:31 PM EDT

On average, Americans eat three hamburgers a week. That’s a national total of nearly 50 billion burgers per year.

And burgers typically cost only a few dollars from fast food joints. That seems pretty cheap. But what we don’t pay for at the counter, we pay for in other ways. Beef has many hidden costs that make a huge impact on our health and environment.

Watch this short animated video, part of the “Food for 9 Billion” project, which explains just how costly it is to eat a burger.

*You can read an annotated transcript of this video here.

How do cows negatively affect the environment?

  • It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.

  • We use eight times more land to feed animals in the U.S. than we use to feed humans.

  • The 500 million tons of manure created each year by American cows releases nitrus oxide, a gas that has 300 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.

  • The 17 billion pounds of fertilizer used to grow feed for cows flows into rivers and oceans, creating huge algae blooms where nothing can survive.

  • In total, 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are released to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

This video was directed and produced by Carrie Ching at the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) as part of the “Food for 9 Billion” project. Reporting was by Sarah Terry-Cobo and the art and animation was by Arthur Jones. Funding came from the Society of Environmental Journalists and Spot.us users.