As Allison Aubrey and Dan Charles reported today on Morning Edition, meat has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat. That's because livestock require so much more food, water, land, and energy than plants to raise and transport. (Listen to the audio above for their conversation with Morning Edition's Linda Wertheimer.)
Take a look here at what goes into just one quarter-pound of hamburger meat.
What It Takes To Make A Quarter-Pound Hamburger
And that's not even including the animal's waste or the methane emissions from its digestion.
But there are fewer cows around than there were in the 1970s.
Cattle inventory, in millions
In the meantime, though, farmers and scientists have found ways to get more meat out of every cow. So even though cattle inventory has dropped, the U.S. is still producing more beef now than in the 1970s.
Average dressed weight of cattle (what's used for meat), in pounds
And if you look at the past century, meat consumption overall in the U.S. has risen dramatically. It's only in the past few years that it has begun to drop a bit.
U.S. total meat consumption, in billion pounds
Though meat consumption in the U.S. has dropped off slightly in recent years, at 270.7 pounds per person a year, we still eat more meat per person here than in almost any other country on the planet. Only the Luxumbourgers eat more meat than we do.
As U.S. beef consumption began to decline in the 1970s, poultry began to rise quickly. A couple of years ago, chicken surpassed beef as our No. 1 meat of choice. Our consumption of pork has also risen slightly over the years.
U.S. meat consumption per person, in pounds