The Environmental Impact of Your Food May Surprise You
If you still had questions about the impact of the consumption of meat, you got more answers in the last couple of months.
In August, Al Gore finally weighed in. Gore’s emphasis on transportation in his lectures and film, An Inconvenient Truth, had left many of us wondering why he didn’t mention the role of global meat production in climate change. Since the film came out in 2006, Gore has kept silent as Peta staged protests at his events, and various organizations asked him to speak publicly on the impact of meat on the environment. Finally, in an interview he acknowledged the role of ag. “Industrial Agriculture is part of the problem,” he said, and went on to discuss the clearing of forests and reliance on synthetic fertilizer as well. Better late than never.
It was about time, since The Environmental Working Group came out with a new report, called the Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change, which compares the carbon footprint of all the protein-containing foods.
The report didn’t pull any punches, and ovo-lacto vegetarians will be sad to hear that cheese is number 3 in environmental impact, just behind lamb and beef. Next in line were pork, salmon, turkey, chicken, tuna, eggs, and then plant foods, although yogurt and milk were down in the lower impact group with things like beans and nuts.
The metrics they used were pretty sophisticated, taking into account all the environmental effects and costs. It’s a fascinating report, and they really added in everything, start to finish, from the gas used to grow and transport animal feed to the emissions that come from the animals’ waste, to the refrigeration at the sales point. It’s interesting to know, just to nail down numbers for all these things. It all adds up.
The group also makes the important distinction between local and grass fed animal products and industrial ones. They urge that anyone who wants to eat meat and cheese will do far better by choosing those that eat only grass, not trucked in high energy grain, and that are not trucked or flown long distances to get to you.
Still, what it all comes down to, is eat plants, save the planet. One person eating one less burger a week is like taking your car off the road for 320 miles, on up to if the whole US population ate no meat or cheese just one day a week would be like not driving 91 billion miles.
So, if you are a meat eater, try meatless as much as you can. Eat small amounts of local, grassfed, and stretch it with plants. If you are ovo lacto, go local, and go vegan some nights, to reduce your impact even more.
We only get one planet, and it only seems polite to save a little for the next guy.