Vegetarians could be doing more harm to the environment than meat-eaters

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 24th February 2016

LettuceEating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon according to a study into the environmental impacts of food production in the US.


Published in Volume 145, Issue 36 of Environment Systems and Decisions journal, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University measured the energy use, blue water footprint greenhouse gas emissions connected with producing US food.


Perhaps to the surprise to some vegetarians, researcher Paul Fischeck said not only was eating bacon a better environmental option, but many vegetables require more resources to produce than is often thought about.


“Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken,” Fischbeck said on the Carnegie Mellon University website.


Researchers connected eating less and managing weight to helping the environment, however eating more “healthier” foods like fruit, vegetables, dairy and seafood all impacts the environment. Incorporating more of these “healthier foods” saw energy use go up by 38 per cent, water use by 10 per cent and greenhouse emissions by 6 per cent.


PhD student and researcher Michelle Tom said there is a complex relationship between diet and the environment.


“What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment,” Tom said.


“That’s important for public officials to know and for them to be cognisant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future,” Tom stated.


Opposing view 


The study has attracted some criticism, especially for calorie based comparison method. One such criticism can be read here.