Our burger choices

When I was growing up, a hamburger was a sight to behold. At times, it was as if someone just grabbed a cow, wiped its butt and slapped it in a roll. They were huge, very meaty and steak sandwiches were the same. We certainly didn’t give much thought about the impact of the burger on the environment, nor about the welfare of the cow.

I had a hamburger a few weeks back and I reckon you could have seen the sunlight through the pattie – it was that thin. I started whinging about it, but then thought to myself it wasn’t a bad thing given I’ve been trying to reduce my meat consumption. It has nothing to do with my waistline, but more for environmental and animal welfare reasons. There was tons of salad in the wafer- thin- pattie burger, but it still tasted pretty good and had just enough meat to satisfy the craving.

Regardless of what our parents taught us, marketing has brought up to believe that more is better – and sadly, marketing is often a bigger influence than our parents. 

But often just enough is, well, enough.

I still salivate at the commercials on TV that show triple pattie, triple cheese and triple bacon burgers regardless of the visions of factory farms that tend to also pop up in my mind. The carnivorous streak still runs deep. 

I wound up having one of these triple layer monsters a while back from a well known fast food chain and felt shocking afterwards. It didn’t make me feel sick, it was incredibly tasty – I  just felt very guilty. I chomped down 3 x the cow I would usually when eating a burger and 3 x the pig. That’s three times the environmental damage. I’ve resisted the urge since.

I didn’t need such a decadent burger. 

And none of us really do.

Even the environmental impact of  your run-of-the-mill cheeseburger is quite shocking considering how many of these are consumed a year. The greenhouse gas footprint alone is quite staggering. 

According to The Cheeseburger Footprint, a very interesting article that received a lot of media attention a few years back, the production and consumption of cheeseburgers in the USA is responsible for roughly the equivalent of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs.
The Cheeseburger Footprint states it works out between 81 and 165 pounds (37 and 75 kilograms) of carbon emissions from the average American’s annual cheeseburger habit or somewhere between 1 kilogram and 3.5 kilograms (2.2 pounds and 7.7 pounds) of energy-based carbon dioxide emissions per cheeseburger.

And that’s just your average cheeseburger – not one of the triple layer meat-fests that seem to be gaining popularity. Our meat consumption is getting really over the top.
While the meat and dairy aspect of your average burger isn’t the only culprit, it’s by far the biggest carbon footprint offender in the meal.
It might not seem such a huge green step, but resisting these double/triple layer, triple bypass burgers certainly helps the environment given the amount of emissions and resources that go into the production of meat and dairy products.
The great philosopher Homer Simpson may have quipped that “you don’t make friends with salad”, we live in a rapidly changing world and perhaps one day we will. Vegetarianism may become the new “normal”. We may have no choice if we wish to keep the planet looking somewhat like it does today – and even that’s not quite Utopia.
Next time you’re queuing up for a burger, have a think about its impact. While you may not be ready to head down the mock meat path (but there are some great mock meat products around now) or to join the ranks of the various types of vegetarians, or have ready access to an organic burger joint – if you can resist the extra layers of meat and cheese, you’ll be striking a blow and doing the planet that sustains us a favor.
Grab some extra fries instead :)
It’s a start – the longest journey starts with a single step and in this crazy world, going green is a long (but fulfilling) journey indeed. Lots of little accomplishments over a short space of time can add up to a big deal.