The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimates it takes on average, three energy calories to produce one calorie of food. Grain-fed beef uses 35 energy calories to produce one calorie of food. Nearly 33% of the energy used in food production comes from processing and packaging food.
The livestock that would take the least amount of energy as a whole would really be anything that is local and is raised sustainably. If you purchase meat from a farm where the animal was raised, fed with food grow at the farm, and was self sufficient, it doesn’t take very much energy calories to produce. Although if you add transport to that, your energy calorie to food calorie ratio changes quickly.
Generally, open-range livestock (cows & sheep) use less fossil fuel energy per unit of meat produced. Open-range agriculture will produce less food than conventional agriculture. Open-range cattle will require far fewer rations of grain and corn because they can meet most of their nutritional needs by grazing on grasses. For this reason, open-range livestock use less fossil fuel energy or what is called ‘cultural energy.’
It takes about 4 and a half kilowatt-hours to produce a pound of chicken. It takes about 12 and a half kilowatt-hours to produce a pound of pork and over 30 kilowatt-hours to produce a pound of beef. Thus, chicken is the winner, by far. Click the citation and scroll down to see the graph!
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