7

A vegan diet recommends the use of fortified foods and supplements (Wikipedia).

How environmentally friendly is the production process of these vitamin B12 pills? Might it maybe even be better for the environment to occasionally eat meat instead of making these pills?

5

Wikipedia says 4 companies produce 35 tons a year. It is produced something similar to the way that yeast is produced since you need microorganisms to create the B12. This is true for animals and us. The subsequent steps appear to convert the B12 created by the vats of bacteria to shelf stable, solid form.

65% of grain in the US alone is for livestock feed. For pesticides to grow that animal feed alone, to say nothing of fertilizers, fossil fuels for shipping refrigerating, etc, the US uses, 1 billion tons.

35 tons of B12 is a colossal amount. The daily recommendation is for dozens or hundreds of micrograms, I have no idea why we are creating so much. But even with this massive level of production of B12, it is 35/1000000000 of the chemical inputs necessary for the pesticides to grow the grains to feed the cows, etc.

So as a back of the envelope calculation, I'd have to be 7 orders of magnitude off for the inputs of animal agriculture to equal those of B12 production.

If we want to think outside of the box, then the environmentally friendly source of B12 is dirty water and dirty food, but that has problems of its own, like water borne diseases, and municipalities make sure there aren't any microbes that might have produced B12.

  • 35 tons may sound a colossal amount, but (if I have done my sums right) a daily recommendation of 100 μg (taken from the range you quote) comes to roughly 0.03 grams/year, so that 35 tons (if you mean 35 megagrams) would cover 100 million people – does that not sound reasonable? – PJTraill May 16 '18 at 11:15
  • Using google's calculator - I think we are making enough for everyone 7.6 billion every year - low end of 2.5 : ((2.5* 365) micrograms * 7.6 billion) in tons = 7 tons -- high end of ((100* 365) micrograms * 7.6 billion) in tons == 305 tons. With like 2% of the world vegan & taking supplements, I have no idea where all that extra goes to. – MatthewMartin May 17 '18 at 19:46

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