The masterplan to climate friendly, Happy Meat

We believe that explaining the method behind how we produce Happy Meat is very important. That being said though, we don’t want it to turn into a long school lesson filled with problems galore. So, we’re going to keep the science short and sweet so we can focus on the solutions. But to make sure we all start on the same page, here are some basic definitions that will help you decipher through the scientific jargon you might come across along the way.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

This is a general term for gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO₂), Methane (CH₄), or Nitrous Oxide (N₂O). These are special gases that float up (or are ‘emitted’) into the atmosphere as a result of industries like farming, mining, textiles or transport. When emitted, these gases cause ‘the greenhouse effect’ – where the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs more of the Sun’s heat leading to rising temperatures (a.k.a. climate change).

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent Emissions (CO₂e)

This metric is a way of standardising how we measure the impact of activities that emit different types of greenhouse gas. In other words, CO₂e lets us compare a flight with a train or a piece of meat with some vegetables.

Gigatonnes (Gt)

Simply a way of making a large number of Kilograms more digestible when reading. 1 Gt is the equivalent of 1,000,000,000,000 Kg.

The current situation

We humans eat a lot of beef. And, as the media often reminds us, altogether it’s starting to have quite a negative impact on our Earth’s health. If you’ve made it to this page on our site, you – like us – probably believe that eating beef is ethical, but only when we do so in a way that keeps Earth healthy and happy. This is important so our planet is still in one piece once our kids, grandkids (and their grandkids, too) are living here too.

The problem

The worldwide beef business creates about 2.9 Gt CO₂e. As you can see in the graph below, most of these emissions can be traced back to 2 stages of a beef product’s “life” (Source data: Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model, GLEAM):

  1. Feed production: Due to the industrialisation of the milk and beef business more often than not, cattle are being fed vast ammounts of grain that cause them to put on weight very fast. Besides being unhealthy for a cow at high quantities (we recommend no higher than 25% of a cows total feed), such grains are also usually imported from South America where they’re grown on lands that have been deforested. While this might not sound too bad, deforestation releases an incredible ammount of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas.
  2. Cow burps: When food makes it to a cow’s first stomach (it has four!) digestion begins. During this process, methane – a greenhouse gas – is created. While the broken down food then travels to the next stomach, the methane is belched out by the cow! Cows burp a huge amount – all day, every day.
  • Feed production 51%
  • Cow burps 43%
  • Manure management 5%
  • Farm upkeep 0.5%
  • Meat processing & transport 0.5%
Sources of GHG emissions as % of global beef emissions

Fake Moos

The 2.9 CO₂e that beef is responsible for comes to about 5.8% of the total greenhouse gases mankind emits. When you hear 5.8% perhaps (like we did initially) you think: “well, hang on a sec – I thought the whole Earth was coming to an apocalyptic end because of beef? 5.8% doesn’t sound like too much”. Admittedly it’s not quite the Trump-esque threat to all mankind as we’ve been led to believe (#fakenews – see what we did there?). But, it is still a significant burden on our planet. Like many others, we believe that even small changes in this area can make an important difference.

  • Electricity & Heat production 25%
  • Transport Industry 14%
  • Beef business 5%
  • Where beef could be with Happy Meat 1%
% of global GHG emissions by sector

However, where we’re not like many others (almost all others in fact) is that we don’t believe wiping beef off the face of the Earth is the answer to all our troubles. No, we don’t want to play God and artificially produce beef in a laboratory and tell you it’s healthy when we don’t actually know what the long term side effects of it are. And no, we also don’t want to process the crap (and nutrition) out of a bunch of plants and give you a dry, patty shaped concoction you have to force down and pretend to your vegan friends that you love. No – just no.

So what's the plan?

Rather than working around or against nature, we believe the answer lies in abiding by nature. Based on a strong heritage of UN research, we’ve developed a system of farming beef that’s 100% all-natural and can reduce the global climate footprint of beef by upto 76% when we eat it just 3 times a week (for real).

How things currently work (‘work’ is a big word, but you get what we mean)

As it turns out, the majority of the beef we buy from butchers or supermarkets is not coming from the same black and white cows that produce the milk we pour onto our morning coco-pops. Our beef usually comes from what are described as ‘specialised beef’ cattle while our milk comes from ‘specialised dairy cattle’. Specialised beef cattle really only provide enough milk for their calves, while specialised dairy cattle are usually so skinny that their beef is either only good for pet food or the cheapest grade spam at Lidl (sorry Lidl, we love you really).

As a result, the beef industry currently has 2 sets of cows, each producing different products that result in their own climate emissions.

Real beef that's climate friendly.

At Happy Meat, we source our beef from unique ‘dual purpose’ cows that have also produced the creamiest, most delicious milk. Meaning, we use only 1 set of cows whose emissions are then spread across 2 sets of products. Choosing beef that’s sourced from these cows immediately cuts the climate impact of the steak on your plate by over 52%! Clever right?

But where do we get these special cows from? Our dual purpose cows are almost identical to dairy cows in nature – but it’s how they’ve been nurtured that makes them so uniquely different.

First off, our beef doesn’t come from cows that are milked intensively, live indoors in crowded spaces, and end up with little more than skin and bones at the end of their short lives. Our cows live long, happy lives spending the majority of their days adventuring across wide open British pastures. This means they spend less time being milked and more time outside exercising to stay healthy and ‘fuller bodied’. Altogether, the cows still supply enough wholesome milk for our Starbucks lattés, as well as bigger, well marbled steaks.

Second, instead of feeding on grains that have been harvested on deforested lands, we solely feed our cows natural grass, food residue streams (think potato peels and distillers grains) and less than 25% grain that has been grown locally on the farm or in nearby European countries. Our beef has absolutely no association with the deforestation occuring around the world.

The final piece

Besides changing the type of beef we eat, the final piece of the jigsaw in making Happy Meat climate friendly is changing the quantity of beef we eat. Yes, this part's down to all of us! Much academic work has been done to calculate how much meat is the "right" amount of meat to eat in order to ensure global sustainability. One of the most renowned contributors to this area of research is the work of British ecologist Simon Farlie – in his book "Meat: A Benign Extravegance" – who suggests 3 x 120g meat meals per person, per week as a safe starting point. This comes to about about half the total we're eating right now.

By simply totalling this figure up and multiplying it by the climate footprint per Kg of Happy Meat (as calculated by the UN's FAO), the total global climate footprint of beef comes to 0.68 Gt if we all chose to eat 3 120g servings of it per week as our portion of meat. That's about a 76% reduction to what it is right now!

Okay, so now we can sit back, eat steak and relax?

No. Well, not yet anyways! Though our beef is already more climate-friendly than most alternatives, its ability to make the difference it could, relies on all of us. On our end, we’ll work tirelessly to educate and inspire as many farmers as possible to follow the Happy Meat method of rearing and feeding cattle. That’s cute, but alone it’s useless. The important role you guys can play is spreading the word! Reducing the climate impact of beef relies on as many people as possible to eat happy meat upto 3 times a week. So do whatever it takes – post on instagram about us or invite your friends round for a happy meat feast. Careful though, don’t turn into the meat police! The idea isn’t to get people stressing about the climate impact of meat. The message is simple: don’t worry, meat happy.

How did we calculate the climate impact of our beef?

First, we haven’t done any of the research ourselves. It’s all been done by the United Nations’ (UN’s) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which is made up of some of Europe’s leading Ecological and Environmental researchers. They’ve been working tirelessly for years to collaborate and contribute towards studies which can inspire, empower and facilitate public and private organisations towards a more sustainable future. The FAO’s calculations are based on years upon years of analyses across the various steps in the product's life — ranging from input feeds, all the way to arriving on your plate.

Since the FAO is so highly regarded by scientists and academics across the board – and because they’ve been one of the most vocal critics of the beef business – we believe they’re the firmest, most objective foundation on which we can base our calculations.

If you're interested to learn more about their research, do read further through the following links: