[ I've later learned that a similar analysis was done by Brian Tomasik Tomasik. I've also done some work trying to scale suffering by measures of cognition (brain mass, neuron counts, synapse counts) and at some point I may end up putting that up here; in the mean time see Sandhoefner. See also How Much Suffering is in the Standard American Diet? An Ethical Diet: What are the impacts of our food choices?. ]
Animals Per Calorie
A typical cow produces 41,000 liters of milk How Much Milk Does A Cow Produce in Its Lifetime?, which equates to about 18 million kcal per cow. The average cow lives 5 years How long does the average dairy cow live? for about 3.6 million kcal per cow per year
The average cow yields 490 pounds of trimmed beef How Much Meat Can You Expect from a Fed Steer?. At about 798 kcal/lb Ground Beef (90% Lean / 10% Fat), that's 391,020 kcal/cow.
A pig yields around 180 pounds of edible meat How Much Meat From a Pig, which amounts to about 187,200 kcal/pig Calories in Pulled Pork Plain (No Sauce)
The average hen lays about 530 eggs The Number of Eggs Given by a Chicken in Its Life Cycle. At 74 kcal/egg 1 Large Egg, that's 39,220 kcal/hen.
Salmon vary widely in size, but yield (very roughly) 14 pounds of meat each How many pounds of fillets can you get from a whole salmon?, equating to about 10,092 kcal/fish ATLANTIC SALMON FILLET. However, farmed salmon are often feed food made from other fish; I'm ignoring this because it's complicated.
The average chicken yields yields about 0.85 pounds of edible meat and skin Cost and Yield Comparisons of Ready-to-Cook Chicken Products, which is about 589 kcal/chicken Chicken breast, grilled - 3oz.
The average blue crab yields about 2.25 oz of meat Preparing Blue Crab: A Seafood Delicacy, equating to about 53 kcal/crabHow Many Calories in Crab Meat?. In short, we haves
If you think that the problem with eating animals is the fact that they suffer beforehand, then you are probably more interested with the suffering per year Age of animals slaughtered:
How much moral weight do animals deserve. This is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult ethical questions.
Obviously, most humans' answer is "minimal" - or at least sufficiently small that no change in their own actions are required. Equally unsurprisingly, vegetarians and vegans generally believe that its a threshold enough to justify their decisions - or at least, some Pascal's wager-esque Pascal's wager argument to that effect.
The other uncontroversial answer is that there is some relationship between cognitive ability and moral weight - its why few people believe bacteria deserve moral weight but everyone agrees humans do.
Probably the most available approximate measure of "cognitive ability" is simply brain weight. If we scale the above moral numbers by this, we get Chudler Carl Wiper (assuming the salmon are killed a 4 years of age):
|Animal||Brain Mass (g)||kal / (Human-Days Lived)|
Alternatively, we could go by the number of neurons Reflective Disequilibrium List of animals by number of neurons:
|Animal||Neurons (mil)||kal / (Human-Days Lived)|
By these simple metrics, it seems that eating eggs and milk is reasonable. Eating meat is ethically questionable at best.
Cost and Yield Comparisons of Ready-to-Cook Chicken Products. Retrieved from https://aglifesciences.tamu.edu/posc/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2012/08/l-2290.pdf
How Much Milk Does A Cow Produce in Its Lifetime?. Dairy Farming Hut. https://dairyfarminghut.com/how-much-milk-does-a-cow-produce-in-its-lifetime/
Alberta Milk. How long does the average dairy cow live?. Retrieved from https://albertamilk.com/ask-dairy-farmer/how-long-does-the-average-dairy-cow-live/
Aussie Abattoirs. Age of animals slaughtered. Retrieved from https://www.aussieabattoirs.com/facts/age-slaughtered
Donald E Sweat. Preparing Blue Crab: A Seafood Delicacy. Retrieved from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/sg078
Issa Waters. How Much Meat From a Pig. Retrieved from https://lovelivegrow.com/how-much-meat-from-a-pig/
Janet Renee. How Many Calories Are in Grilled or Baked Salmon Steak?. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/298045-how-many-calories-are-in-grilled-or-baked-salmon-steak/
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Marx Foods. How many pounds of fillets can you get from a whole salmon?. Retrieved from https://www.askmarxfoods.com/pounds-of-fillets-from-whole-salmon/
Melodie Anne. How Many Calories in Crab Meat?. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/305760-how-many-calories-in-crab-meat/
Mom.me. The Number of Eggs Given by a Chicken in Its Life Cycle. Retrieved from https://animals.mom.me/number-eggs-given-chicken-its-life-cycle-9646.html
Carl. (2013). How are brain mass (and neurons) distributed among humans and the major farmed land animals?. Reflective Disequilibrium. http://reflectivedisequilibrium.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-is-brain-mass-distributed-among.html
Rosie Nold. How Much Meat Can You Expect from a Fed Steer?. Retrieved from https://igrow.org/livestock/beef/how-much-meat-can-you-expect-from-a-fed-steer/
fatsecret. 1 Large Egg. Retrieved from https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/egg-whole-raw?portionid=11206
fatsecret. Ground Beef (90% Lean / 10% Fat). Retrieved from https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/ground-beef-(90%25-lean---10%25-fat)?portionid=41288&portionamount=1.000
myfitnesspal. Calories in Pulled Pork Plain (No Sauce). Retrieved from https://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/generic-pulled-pork-plain-no-sauce-446411497?v2=false
nutrionix. Chicken breast, grilled - 3oz. Retrieved from https://www.nutritionix.com/i/usda/chicken-breast-grilled-3-oz/463d623797fd4d0a9f16ffe2
ATLANTIC SALMON FILLET 8 OZ, SKINLESS, PBO 421348. Trident Seafoods. https://www.tridentseafoods.com/browse/food-service-products/atlantic-salmon-fillet-8-oz-skinless-pbo-421348/
Tomasik, B. (2018). How Much Direct Suffering Is Caused by Various Animal Foods?. https://reducing-suffering.org/how-much-direct-suffering-is-caused-by-various-animal-foods/
Sandhoefner, E. Farm Animal Suffering Comparisons. http://sandhoefner.github.io/animal_suffering_calculator
Hurford, P. How Much Suffering is in the Standard American Diet?. Everyday Utilitarian. http://everydayutilitarian.com/essays/how-much-suffering-is-in-the-standard-american-diet/
Peters, D. (2016). An Ethical Diet: What are the impacts of our food choices?. http://ethical.diet/
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, January 14). Pascal's wager. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:47, January 15, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pascal%27s_wager&oldid=1065555700
Chudler, E. Brain Facts and Figures. https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html
Wiper, M. L., Lehnert, S. J., Heath, D. D., & Higgs, D. M. (2017). Neutral genetic variation in adult Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) affects brain-to-body trade-off and brain laterality. Royal Society open science, 4(12), 170989. https://dx.doi.org/10.1098%2Frsos.170989