|No. 2 in carbon footprint, guide says (USDA photo)|
Looking to reduce your carbon footprint? You may want to skip the lamb chop and cut back on the beef. The Environmental Working Group commissioned an assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions of meat and other protein sources and released its findings today.
Lamb ranked by far the highest in greenhouse gas emissions, followed by beef and cheese. The key reason those are high is that they all come from ruminants that produce a lot of methane during digestion and in their manure. Lamb ranks No. 1 because it produces the least amount of meat relative to its live weight.
Lamb generates nearly 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents for every kilo consumed, giving it a 50 percent greater carbon footprint than beef.
Beef generates more than 27 kilos of greenhouse gases per kilo consumed, twice the emissions of pork and nearly four times more than chicken.
By comparison, eggs produce less than five kilos of emissions per kilo eaten. Lentils ranked lowest in emissions, with less than one kilo.
The analysis, which was performed for EWG by an independent firm called CleanMetrics, attempted to account for everything from the fertilizer that went into growing the feed the animal ate to the methane it emitted, the fuel needed to get the product to market, and even the amount of each food that was typically wasted. Farmed salmon wound up ranking relatively high in part because a lot of the fish is thrown away, according to the report. Discarded food accounts for at least 20 percent of emissions associated with meat and dairy products, EWG said.
The amount of meat that is wasted varies considerably, according to Agriculture Department data cited by the study. About 40 percent of fresh and frozen fish is discarded, compared to just 12 percent of chicken and 16 percent of beef and 31 percent of turkey.
EWG’s Meat Eater’s Guide also evaluates the relative healthfulness of different protein sources based on their saturated fat content and other factors.
“By eating and wasting less meat (especially red and processed meat) and cheese, you can simultaneously improve your health and reduce the climate and environmental impact of food production. And when you do choose to eat meat and cheese, go greener,” the guide says.