The Carbon Footprint of a Cheeseburger

Earlier this week in Web Watch, we mentioned how 15,000 Google searches used the same amount of energy as it took to create a single cheeseburger.   (And this even ties in with yesterday’s Best Fast-Food Burger post – welcome to Burger Week on Web Watch!) 

Some people asked Web Watch where we got that burger energy information from, so we thought we’d look into it.  CAN CREATING A CHEESEBURGER REALLY USE UP THAT MUCH ENERGY?  Yes, it can.

Creating a cheeseburger requires many different aspects, including:

  • raising the wheat to make the bun
  • raising the cow, slaughtering and freezeing the meat
  • Pickling the pickles, growing and harvesting the tomatoes
  • Transport costs

Researchers have calculated that creating a single burger can cost between 7 and 20 megajoules of energy.

But it mostly comes down to how much energy it takes to raise a cow.

A typical 21-month-old cow will give us about 2,000 1/4-lb patties.  If you look at how much cow farts and other associate methane contribute to greenhouse gasses, you get about the same amount of CO2 from that one cow as it does producing the rest of the burger parts.

In essence, the greenhouse gas emissions each year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount put out by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs.  (These numbers depend on the number of burgers eaten on average, from 1 to 3 burgers per person, per week).