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According to the Washington Post, 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions are pegged to food.

1. Lamb: 39 lbs CO2 per lb of food 


  • Eating a kilogram of lamb is equivalent to driving about 90 miles! Some of the carbon footprint comes from shipping (50% of lamb in the US is imported), but the biggest source comes from the byproducts of the animals’ digestion (think burps and farts!).

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2. Beef: 27 lbs CO2 per lb of food

  • 1 beef meal a week replaced with beans is the equivalent of not burning 38 gallons of gas

  •  Conventional beef production requires 485-15,415 liters of water  to produce one kilogram of beef, according the The Animals study and The Water Footprint Network

  • 54,476,000 metric tons of feed-tuff are needed per 1 billion kilograms of beef produced. This comes down to more than 13 pounds of feed per quarter-pound hamburger.

  • Nearly 65 square feet of land are needed to produce a quarter pound of beef.

  • One of the biggest sources of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) in the US and worldwide is agriculture,  especially cows.

  • 0.126 pounds of methane are released into the atmosphere for every quarter-pound hamburger you eat.


3. Cheese: 14 lbs CO2 per lb of food

  • Cheese is also a major CO2 contributor

  • Only a tiny fraction of cheese is shipped to America, but it accounts for ½ of all the carbon emissions from cheese

  • In addition, cheese has large amounts of saturated fat, which is bad for health.


4. Pork: 12 lbs CO2 per lb of food

  • Bacon and ham are also bad for the environment

  • 5 pounds of carbon emissions are required to produce an 8 oz serving of pork

  • More than half of the carbon footprint from pork comes from raising the animals

  • The remainder comes from processing, transport, and cooking the meat at home.


5. Farmed salmon: 12 lbs CO2 per lb of food

  • For farmed salmon, the main sources of CO2 emissions are feed production, electricity generation and on-farm fuel combustion.

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6. Turkey: 11 lbs CO2 per lb of food

  • The main sources of carbon emissions from chicken and turkey are the same, but turkey has greater overall emissions.

  • The emissions mainly come from feed production (mostly corn), then processing and home cooking.

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General Food Facts:

More than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are pegged to food. That includes raising and harvesting all the plants, animals and animal products we eat — beef, chicken, fish, milk, lentils, kale, corn and more — as well as processing, packaging and shipping food to markets all over the world. If you eat food, you’re part of this system.

One recent study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that, on average, it takes 3 lbs of grain to raise 1 lb of meat.

Modern agriculture inevitably contributes to climate change, but some foods have a bigger impact than others. Beef, lamb and cheese tend to do the most climate damage. Pork, chicken and eggs are in the middle. Plants of all kinds typically have the lowest impact.

What you eat matters a lot more than whether it’s local or organic, or what kind of bag you use to carry it home from the store.

You don’t have to give up meat altogether to make a difference. Even smaller changes, like eating less meat and more plants, or switching from beef to chicken, can reduce your climate footprint.

One simple way to cut your food-related emissions is to waste less. Buying what you need and actually eating it — instead of tossing it out — means that the energy used to produce your food has been spent efficiently.

Meat and dairy, particularly from cows, have an outsized impact, with livestock accounting for around 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases each year. That’s roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today.

In general, beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, while plant-based foods tend to have the smallest impact. Pork and chicken are somewhere in the middle. A major study published last year in the journal Science calculated the average greenhouse gas emissions associated with different foods.

How food contributes to global warming: 4 major causes

When forests are cleared to make room for farms and livestock — this happens on a daily basis in some parts of the world — large stores of carbon are released into the atmosphere, which heats up the planet. 


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When cows, sheep and goats digest their food, they burp up methane, another potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. 


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Animal manure and rice paddies are also big methane sources. 

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Finally, fossil fuels are used to operate farm machinery, make fertilizer, and ship food around the globe, all of which generate emissions.


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Climate-Friendly Recipes from NYtimes
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