There is a significant opportunity cost in growing feed crops, said Gidon Eshel, research professor of Environmental Physics at Bard College. “If you produce 100lbs of corn and feed it to beef, you get 3lbs of edible beef. Because of this, using land to grow feed crops instead of food [for humans] is incredibly questionable – it’s wasteful,” he said.

The study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published on Wednesday also estimates that only about 5% of this land, 408,000 acres, has been enrolled in sustainable farming programs announced by Tyson in 2018.

The UCS findings are based on calculations of the amount of corn and soybeans Tyson required to feed the approximately 6 million head of cattle, 22 million hogs and nearly 2 billion chickens it processed in the US in 2020, drawing on data reported by Tyson.

Most consumers do not appreciate how much land is needed exclusively to support industrial animal farming and the wider environmental impacts of that, said Marcia DeLonge, a senior scientist in the food and environment program at the UCS and co-author of the report. “We are using this land in a way that creates a lot of pollution and a lot of problems that contribute to climate change,” DeLonge said.

Tyson Foods did not respond to requests to comment on the UCS research and questions about its crop feed footprint.

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