Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Carbon footprint of meat

I don't usually promote the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) because I am pro-nuclear energy but they posted an interesting fact sheet on the carbon footprint of our favorite foods. This research is actually from an article in Scientific American that shows that diet can be more important than cars in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and thus combating global warming.

The carbon footprint of food includes all of the fossil fuels that that went into producing the fertilizer, pumping irrigation water for the crop to grow, emissions from converting forest land to grazing land, transportation of feed and packaged products to consumers, and even methane released from the animals’ digestion and manure. Therefore, meat has a high carbon footprint because you have to grow the crops to feeds the animals and then also have land for the animals, and all of the transportation in between.

The NRDC estimates that if all Americans eliminated just one quarter-pound serving of beef per week, the reduction in global warming gas emissions would be equivalent to taking four to six million cars off the road. The single-most green/sustainable thing that you can do as an individual is simply eat less meat. You will reduce greenhouse gas emissions more so than you would than taking public transit or driving a hybrid car. And you don't even have to be close to vegan or mostly plant-based, like me. Try doing Meatless Mondays or reducing your portion size of meat and adding vegetables. Your health will benefit, as well.

Would knowing the carbon footprint of your food impact your eating habits?

How do you try to be more sustainable in your daily life?


  1. Thank you for sharing this! I'm sure I've heard this before, but It's definitely very eye-opening to see it stacked up like that. I'm also reading Born to Run right now, and there was a part in there about diet, and linking cultures that eat a lot of meat (like the US) to higher rates of cancer. Honestly, other than bacon, I could give up meat altogether.

  2. Glad you found it useful! You should also read Scott Jurek's (he's in Born to Run) book Eat and Run. You don't have to be completely vegan to reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. I eat sushi once a week and bacon occasionally for brunch.


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