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Sep 08, 2008

Meat as Footprint -- Transport, Production, and Sales


According to a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, foregoing red meat and dairy just one day a week achieves more greenhouse gas reductions than eating an entire week’s worth of locally sourced foods. That’s because the carbon footprint of food miles is dwarfed by that of food production. In fact, 83 percent of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food consumption comes from production; transportation represents only 11 percent; wholesaling and retailing account for 5 percent. Source: Weber, C.L. and Matthews, H.S. 2008. Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology 42(10):3508–3513.

-from Conservation Magazine, which has a fantastic graph in The Problem of What to Eat -- Organic farming and eating locally make intuitive sense. But does conventional wisdom about eating sustainably hold up to the science?  I was surprised to see that grains, fruit, and vegetables have a modestly higher carbon impact than fish, eggs, and poultry. 

I know there are many ways to debate what people choose to eat and why, but the one consistent thing is that people need good data if they want to make philosophically meaningful decisions.  Hooray for data!

05:19 PM in Food | Permalink


Meat isn't too too hard for me to give up, recent iron level issues notwithstanding, my flesh consumption is low, overall. But dairy. Oh, sweet milk, butter, cheese and cream. I sense I'm near incapable of cutting out moo juice.

Posted by: stew | Sep 8, 2008 10:01:00 PM

If you haven't read it already, I suggest The Omnivore's Dilemma for a multi-dimensional look at how your food gets to the table and what it really costs. Continue with In Defense of Food if you like.

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas | Sep 9, 2008 9:10:49 AM

And check out the efforts of New Harvest, founded my a former housemate of mine, to grow meat as tissue culture.


Also, I wonder how much gas our country would save if we eliminated drive-through windows. I bet a lot.

Posted by: Elrond Hubbard | Sep 12, 2008 10:44:53 AM