A recently published UK study of different diets and food types found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) impact compared to people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). The daily carbon footprint for a person eating the average amount of meat in the US was just under 16 pounds of CO2 compared to around 8.5 pounds for vegetarians and 6.5 pounds for vegans.
The researchers rated the participants as heavy, medium or low meat-eaters. For their study, heavy meat-eaters ate 3.5 ounces of meat per day. The average American eats 4 ounces.
The researchers calculated the GHG footprint for different food types (see chart below). That quarter pound patty on your hamburger has a carbon footprint of 37.9 pounds of CO2. According to a 2008 EPA study of average auto emissions, that is equal to driving almost 50 miles. Was it really worth it? (See more about the impact of that quarter-pounder)
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the health impacts of eating a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet but the environmental impacts of our addiction to meat has to be talked about and addressed before it destroys our planet. Here is an excerpt from the new movie Cowspiracy that examines the impact of factory meat production and why environmental groups don’t talk about it.
The conclusion of the research:
Analysis of observed diets shows a positive relationship between dietary GHG emissions and the amount of animal-based products in a standard 2,000 kcal diet. This work demonstrates that reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation. Other work has demonstrated other environmental and health benefits of a reduced meat diet. National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a ‘healthy, sustainable diet’ must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products.
Wise words indeed.