Eating lamb worst for environment

US environmental lobby group, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), has released a study measuring the environmental impact of meat and dairy products.

Lamb, it claims is the worst offender, producing the greatest environmental impact and greenhouse gasses. Its production generates 39.3 kg (86.4 lbs) of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) for each kilo eaten.

EWG partnered with CleanMetrics, an environmental analysis and consulting firm, to do lifecycle assessments of 20 popular types of meat (including fish), dairy and vegetable proteins.

The assessment calculates the full ‘cradle-to-grave’ carbon footprint of each food item based on the greenhouse gas emissions generated before and after the food leaves the farm.

This includes the pesticides and fertilizer used to grow animal feed all the way through the grazing, animal raising, processing, transportation, cooking and the disposal of unused food.

The study found that lamb, beef, cheese, pork and farmed salmon generate the most greenhouse gases.

While lamb was found to produce the most emissions, little of it is eaten in the US, so does not account for a large percentage of overall emissions there.

Beef had the second-highest emissions, generating 27.1 kilos (59.6 lbs) of(CO2e) per kilo consumed, more than twice the emissions of pork, nearly four times that of chicken and more than 13 times that of vegetable proteins such as beans, lentils and tofu.

Beef production has a far greater impact on overall emission production as around 30% of the meat consumed in America is beef.

Meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed were found generally the least environmentally damaging.

EWG senior analyst and author of the report, Kari Hamerschlag, said: “By eating and wasting less meat, consumers can help limit the environmental damage caused by the huge amounts of fertilizer, fuel, water, and pesticides, not to mention the toxic manure and wastewater that goes along with producing meat.”

“Choosing healthier, pasture-raised meats can also help improve people’s health and reduce the environmental damage associated with meat consumption.”

You can read the report ‘Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health’ here.

Alison Brown

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