How can we, as WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) individuals, mitigate our catastrophic effects on the environment? Pretty much all recommendations start with this: eat less meat.
Like the other top recommendations—drive less and fly less—this is not super appealing to most of us. But beef production in the US uses more land, water, and fertilizer than any other form of agriculture, no matter which way you cut it. Whether you measure by calories or grams of protein generated, cows are the elephant in the room.
As of now, cattle eat not only local pasture, but also grains, hay, and grass that is grown elsewhere and stored. A recent analysis by an international team of researchers looked into what would change if the US switched to sustainable ranching, in which cattle eat only from local grasslands and agricultural byproducts.