As far as greenhouse emissions, lettuce is worse than bacon, according to a Carnegie Mellon University study published last November.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said study co-author and social science professor Paul Fischbeck. “There’s a complex relationship between diet and the environment. What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment. That’s important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future.”
The study examined a variety of different foods and their impact on greenhouse gas emissions –via growing, preparing and transporting it – for every 1,000 calories of each different ingredient. Lettuce, which tends to be light on calories, requiring more volume, and is highly perishable, creates more greenhouse emissions and therefore is worse for the environment than pork, the study found. In fact, the stdy’s authors discovered that following the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for a person’s dietary needs – consuming more fruit, vegetables, fish and dairy, but less red meat than the typical household currently consumes – actually increased greenhouse gas emissions by six percent.
However, beef is still significantly worse than pork or lettuce in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the study confirmed.
“Cattle, due to their large population, large size, and particular digestive characteristics, account for the majority of CH4 (Methane) emissions from livestock in the United States,” states the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to The Telegraph, livestock emissions account for more than direct emissions for cars, planes, ships and trains combined; about 15 percent globally.
Of course, the impacts covered in the Carnegie Mellon study do not factor in growing your own vegetables, or walking down to your community garden to get lettuce or whatever produce is in season.
Similarly, the study does not cover personal health impacts of consuming mass amounts of pork. The hog industry is still riddled with sanitation and handling problems, and over 69 percent of all raw pork samples tested were positive for Yersinia enteroclitica contamination, according to a Consumer Reports article.
Perhaps, as others have suggested, climate change impacts from food are less about what you eat and more about how that food is raised, grown, prepared and transported.
This Article (Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t: How Going Vegetarian Might Not Help Climate Change) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and AnonHQ.com.