The True Impact of Hamburgers (Video)

By Brian Merchant, TreeHugger

On average, Americans eat three burgers a week. That may sound surprising in statistic form, but it squares pretty evenly with our nation’s fast food infatuation.

It’s also the very first factoid presented in this neat little video from the Center for Investigative Reporting (the same folks who did the great ‘Hidden Cost of Gas’ video). ‘The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers’ seeks to educate viewers about the true cost of our beefy eating habits.

A hamburger may cost you ~99 cents at Wendy’s, but there are a slew of additional costs that those beef-pattied buns impose on society at large—environmental impacts of beef production, extra healthcare costs for obesity-related issues, etc. As such, CIR calculates that every burger costs us an additional $1.51 in hidden costs, which adds up to $72 million in extra costs a year.

The group explains at its website: (via Grist)

“We looked at a range of ways beef is produced and came up with an average that is close to how a cow would be raised in Fresno, Calif.: about 1 pound of greenhouse gases per ounce of beef, or about 6˝ pounds of greenhouse gases per quarter-pounder. We looked at studies that showed the health costs of treating overweight people and associated illnesses, such as high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes — that’s about 75 cents per burger. Then we looked at how much water it takes to produce a pound of beef — that’s about 50 cents per burger.

We also looked at the price of a ton of carbon — that’s remarkably small for the U.S., less than one-hundredth of a penny. But in the European Union, because it has a functioning carbon market, the price would be about a nickel per burger. Daniel Lopez Dias, the lead economist on the calculations, notes that these figures are conservative and don’t include effects from air and water pollution, effects of low wages that slaughterhouse workers receive and the high risk of injury they face, or general effects of urban sprawl.”

The point is, of course, that those costs don’t cut into the fast food companies and industrial-scale ranchers’ profit margins; instead, the public absorbs the true price of hamburgers.


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Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you!

Natasha Salgado
Natasha Salgado2 years ago

I think the government should tax all meat eaters. It would help the environment,improve health and mostly help the animals. Thanks.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Sharing this, thanks

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

Considering that many of us eat 1 or 2 a month, there must be a lot of people making up the difference.

Lin Moy
Lin M3 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Simon Tormey
Simon Tormey3 years ago

The maths in this article are dreadful - as the last comment said the intro has three per day but it turns out to be three per week - $72 million at $1.51 per burger totals less than 48 million burgers - assuming the $72 million is a weekly cost 48 million burgers in a country with a population of approximately 300 million where "Americans eat three burgers per week" - is the three a week an average for the total population meaning a total of 900 million per week or just a proportion of the total population?

Patricia Garcia Ces
Patricia Ces3 years ago


Dale Overall

Spending part of the evening storm chasing driving around the rural roads my friend then asked me to stop at Wendy's to pick up something to drink. Have never darkened the doors of a Wendy's and wondered.

Inside a sign presented Dave the founder along with a black and white snapshot of David as a child discussing square hamburgers. Reminded me of the Quebec expression "Tete carree" referring to their English speaking countrymen as Square heads...likely in response to the insult of "frog or Pepsi."

Another sign touted the wonders of The Baconator and even more fearfully The Son of Baconator. These reproduce? His spawn now circling the globe with fast "food" so called burgers masquerading as real meat coming from factory farms. Perhaps these things can also be cloned.

"You will be assimilated! Resistance is Futile!" drones on The Baconator and its son.

I will eat real meat from organic sources, certainly not Wendy burgers pumped full of hormones/antibiotics. Tammy A thinks that fewer people would eat meat if they had to kill it themselves, but people live on farms and have done that all the time.

Organic meat and veggies is the way to go, or for the meatless ones, organic veggies...but beware of the Monsanto Monster lurking in the soy fields! It wages a ruthless world wide campaign of conquest and domination. Hide the kittens while your heritage/heirloom seeds fight on in a valiant guerrilla warfare resistance movement!

Laurie H.
Laurie H.3 years ago

I can only speak for myself and for me a veg lifestyle works in so many positive ways!!! Many thanks for this post!!!!!~~~~