A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that following the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommendation to eat more fruits, vegetables, seafood and dairy is in fact more harmful to the environment than eating meat. The reason, they say, is that these foods require high resource use and create high greenhouse gas emissions per calorie.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy, and an author of the paper. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”
The researchers did find that by eating fewer calories and managing our weight, the effect on the environment was positive, with a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the food supply chain by nine per cent per calorie.
However, by following the USDA’s recommended guidelines — more veggies, fruits, dairy and seafood — energy use increased by 39 per cent, water use by 10 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent.
“There’s a complex relationship between diet and the environment,” said one of the study’s authors, Michelle Tom. “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.”
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