The carbon foodprint of 5 diets compared

Comparing Carbon Foodprints

It is well understood that meat production has a big carbon footprint.

Numerous studies detail the climate impact of livestock, but just how big is it’s impact on a person’s foodprint?

This post compares the carbon footprints of five different American diets and finds that when it comes to foodprints vegan’s lead the way.

The carbon footprint of different diets

Even since the FAO announced that 18% of global emission result from livestock people have talked about the climate benefits of reducing meat consumption.

More recent studies show that food system emissions could account for as much as quarter of all human emissions.  That is 12% from agricultural production, another 9% from farming induced deforestation, and a further 3% from things like refrigeration and freight.

Such studies beg the question, what is the impact of meat on an individual’s foodprint?

This analysis tries to answer that question using data from the US.  In it we compare five different diets:

Meat Lover, Average, No Beef, Vegetarian and Vegan

For each diet we look solely at the emissions associated with food supply, so we do not include those from consumer’s transportation, storage or the cooking of food.  Nor do we consider land use change emissions.

Rather than bore you with the methodology let’s start with the results and work back through how they were calculated.

The results of our analysis look like this:

The Carbon Foodprints of Different Diets

A Vegetarian’s foodprint is about two thirds of the average American and almost half that of a meat lover.  For a Vegan it is even lower.  But perhaps most interestingly, eating chicken instead of beef cuts a quarter of emissions in one simple step.

An Average American’s diet has a foodprint of around 2.5 t CO2e per person each year.  For a Meat Lover this rises to 3.3 t CO2e,  for the No Beef diet it is 1.9 t  t CO2e, for the Vegetarian it’s 1.7 t CO2e and for the Vegan it is 1.5 t CO2e.  Each of these estimates includes emissions from food that is eaten, wasted by consumers and lost in the supply chain.

In the average diet animal products make up 60% of emissions despite accounting for just a quarter of food energy.  For the Meat Lover beef consumption causes almost half of emissions from just a tenth of food energy.  In the No Beef diet all the reductions from the Average foodprint come by switching from beef to chicken.  The difference between the Vegetarian and Vegan diets arises from dairy consumption being switched to a mix of cereals and vegetables.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing is that although the foodprints vary greatly, three fifths of each diet is identical.  In other words, 60% of food energy consumed is the same in each of these four diets.

The share that is constant accounts for 1550 kcal of food energy per day and about 0.7 t CO2e of each foodprint.  So all the variation depends on the remaining 1,000 kcal per day.  The Vegan gets these 1000 kcal for 0.8 t CO2e, the Vegetarian for 1 t,  No Beef for 1.2 t, Average for 1.8 t and the Meat Lover for 2.6 t.

The diets we compared

Each of these five diets are variations of the average American diet based on data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

For each of our diets we assume consumption of around  2,600 kcal of food energy each day, roughly equal to an average American.  This should not be confused with total food supply which is around 3,900 kcal each day.  In each diet food energy is split up among nine different food groups.

The five diets are all variations on the average diet.  We assume the Meat Lover eats more red meat, white meat and dairy in place of some cereals, fruit and vegetables.  The No Beef diet is just the average diet with all beef consumption switched to chicken.  The Vegetarian switches away from beef and chicken to fruit and vegetables, while also reducing oils and snacks.  The Vegan does much the same as the vegetarian while also eliminating dairy through further switching to cereals, fruits and vegetables.

In terms of food energy distribution the diets look like this:

The diets we compared

The food energy that remains the same is each diet is roughly 450 kcal of cereals, 80 kcal of fruit, 50 kcal of vegetables, 580 kcal of oils, 220 kcal of snacks and 180 kcal of drinks.

Comparing food group emissions

The reason that these five foodprints vary so much despite being so similar is that the carbon intensity of food consumption differs greatly between the food groups.

To estimate each foodprints we first calculated the carbon intensity of food consumption in each group.  This involved estimating the cradle to retail emissions of food production (kg CO2e/kg product), converting each to emissions per unit food energy produced, and then adjusting for food waste and supply chain losses.  This gives emissions per unit of food consumed (g CO2e/kcal).  For a more complete explanation see our shrink your food footprint page.

The carbon intensity of food consumption for each food group is as follows:

Comparing emissions of consumed food

These figures estimate the emissions produced in the process of supplying a kilocalorie of food energy for each food group.  They show on average how carbon intensive it is for Americans to get their energy from the different food groups.

Unsurprisingly red meat is the most carbon intensive way to get food energy, followed by dairy, fruit and chicken.  Cereals, oils and snacks are the least carbon intensive.  These factors are the reason why foodprints gets smaller as less red meat, dairy and chicken are consumed.

Although the carbon intensity of food production is the main driver in these figures, each is also influenced by how calorific foods are and what scale of supply chain losses and consumer waste they suffer.

For example oils, snacks and cereals are each highly calorific and have relatively low losses and waste, which results in them performing very well.  The opposite is true of fruits and vegetables which are less calorific per unit weight but have a very high share of consumer waste and supply chain losses.

Using food groups also hides great variation of carbon intensity within each group.  A hot housed tomato can have emissions 5 times higher than one grown in season, potatoes have tiny footprints compared to many other vegetables, and cheese has much higher emission than milk.  So by limiting ourselves to just nine food groups we greatly understate the potential that changing diet has to reduce food emissions.

What about my foodprint?

This analysis attempts to show the important role animal products, and red meat in particular, have in determining the scale of a person’s foodprint.  It’s relevance to your own foodprint will depend on what your own diet is like.

Because we use national averages for food consumption, production emissions, food energy content, food losses and food waste  our estimates may vary significantly from an individuals diet.

Such caveats aside, this analysis does highlight that a small share of the food we eat can cause the majority of our food emissions.  Beef, lamb and cheese are among the most carbon intensive things we can eat, while milk, out of season fruit and other meats can also have relatively high emissions.

Shifting some of your diet away from these foods towards cereals or in-season fruit and vegetables is a very effective way to shrink your foodprint.  If your aiming for a very low carbon diet, you won’t do much better that a seasonal vegan diet, particularly if you also limit food waste.


For further reading food emissions check out:

30 Day Shrink Guide
  • Richard Head

    No. 1 problem in the world = people making more people who eat more of everything. Stop making babies.

    • John Dague

      Absolutely correct!

    • EcoAdvocate

      Borrow one instead!

    • joeboosauce

      No, that is hardly the #1 problem. It’s a consideration but not the current biggest problem. There are plenty of resources for the current population but a minority wants to consume the lionshare of resources thereby taking them away from the poor. All the grain feed to cattle for bourgeois tastes could be used to feed every human a couple times over. But some think they “must” have their steak.

    • SPGardner

      Too many Earthlings, not enough Earth.

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  • Scott Dee

    So eating fast food is even more wasteful and an extra snub to the environment…

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  • John Dague

    You’re talking about a change from an average diet to a vegetarian diet that is going to reduce the annual CO2 from your diet by 0.8 tons per year, when your automobile produces 1,100 tons of CO2 per year. Isn’t a change in diet insignificant to your carbon footprint compared to your transportation to work each day, assuming you have a job and do not walk or ride a bicycle to work. Maybe you could telecommute, then you could Shrink That Footprint while eating steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or consider buying your beef from a local rancher so your food (at least your beef) never travels in a semi-trailer truck.

  • John Dague

    You are talking about 0.8 ton per year reduction in CO2 from changing an average diet to a vegetarian diet. An average automobile produces 5.2 tons of CO2 per year. The electricity used by an average household produces 8.0 tons CO2 per year. We could make larger reductions in CO2 by reducing consumption of fuel and electricity, and by buying less stuff (fewer new cars, new gadgets, new clothes…). Plus, if we eliminate beef and lamb from our diet, we lose the ability to produce food for human consumption for our grasslands, somehow that will need to be replaced and chickens, pigs, and fish can’t digest fiber, they’re monogastrics not ruminents. I’m sure livestock producers would still raise the same animals, but we’d probably begin to export more meat and export less soy.

  • John Dague

    This is funny, laugh.
    The US Environmental Protection Agency announces that nationally, livestock production contributes only 3.4% of US greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture, along with Commercial & Residential greenhouse gas emissions were shown to be the lowest source of emissions, contributing to only 10% of US greenhouse gases, behind Electricity, Transportation, and Industry, which contributed 32%, 28%, and 20% respectively. This data collected by our nation’s leading scientists and industry experts stands in stark contrast to estimates by the United Nations FAO political policy makers who concluded that livestock emissions are responsible for 18% of global GHG emissions (a higher share than transport), and author, and former NYC journalist, Michael Pollan, who estimated the food system contributed 19% to greenhouse gas emissions. “After cars,” Pollen wrote, “the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy”. Pollen defended his estimates of greenhouse gas emissions, stating that his estimate included “smoke emissions” contributed from his garden, as well as the gardens of his like-minded followers, with Twinkies and Ding-Dongs included in his definition of “food system”.

    For further information regarding the correction of common misconceptions, please see the article published in American Meat Science Association, entitled “Sustainability – The Carbon Footprint of Beef Production” by respected animal scientist, and leading expert on the subject, Judith L. Capper, PhD

    • Lori Wheeler

      All animal agriculture accounts for 51% of greenhouse gases which is far more than all the transportation modes together! Watch the new documentary

      • Lindsay Wilson

        Its actually more like 15-20%. That long shadow figure isn’t correct, includes neutral respiration. This is the best digestible page of the science I know:

      • John Dague

        Lori, I watched the documentary, twice, because I couldn’t tell what it was about. It appeared to imply that the Sierra Club is a huge organization that has a lot of political clout and no one wanted to talk about the harm that they are doing to the world, in fear of getting killed by them. I’d believe it, many activists do extreme things for their cause. It is a very good film, very well put together, but it had no information at all.
        Maybe the film is implying that the U.S. EPA is the organization that is doing the harm (and killing people) if you believe that they have under-reported animal agriculture emissions. The U.S. EPA said that livestock contribute 3.2 % to CO2e emissions each year. Maybe it is a U.S. EPA conspiracy. But animal scientists from Iowa State have said that enteric fermintation from U.S. beef cattle contributes 1.5% of the CO2e emissions each year, so they agree with the EPA. I would agree too, because I calculated the amount of CO2e that the U.S. beef herd produces using USDA beef herd inventory and research work that documented the amount of ammonia that each cow produces from enteric fermentation. You have to multiply the amount of ammonia by 28 because that is the effect it has as a greenhouse gas, compared to CO2. But it’s about 1.5% of the total U.S. greenhouse gases, or about 0.02% of the total global greenhouse emissions. It is a small amount, the U.S. beef herd is now smaller than it was 50 years ago, only 29 million, versus 245 million cars in the U.S., 317 million people in the U.S., and 7.25 Billion people in the world. The amount of greenhouse gas produced by the U.S. beef herd is a very small drop in a very large ocean of greenhouse gases produced by other sources.
        I believe if we want to create a sustainable global environment, we have to realize what is doing the harm, and that every environmental problem can be traced back to four things: overpopulation, coal, oil, and natural gas. The planet is seeing development on a scale that has never been seen before because of these four things. Feedlots are made possible and necesary because of these four things. There is very little wrong with our planet that would not fix itself in time if human beings would give up fossil fuels and convert to solar, wind, and wave power. Doing this would be fatal for developed societies, but good for the sustainability of our planet. People in developed parts of the world will oppose this the most, because it will change their lives the most. This is likely the reason that the U.S. has not committed to participating in the Kyoto Protocol CO2 emissions reductions, and may be why New York City journalists are trying to blame agriculture for our global problems, to create confusion and avoid addressing the real problem. So, if you want to believe in a conspiracy theory, there you go.
        The U.S. EPA says that CO2e emissions come from the following sources: Electricity 32%, Transportation 28%, Industry 20%, Commercial & Residential 10%, Agricultural 10%.
        I believe the U.S. EPA is reporting the emission sources properly because I’ve seen a lot of industries that produce most of the greenhouse gases. I’ve toured Chaparral Steel’s electric steel recycling furnace, I’ve been to one of Alcoa’s aluminum smelters, I’ve seen the coal mine and electrical power plant that they constructed to support their aluminum smelting, I’ve worked in the oil fields in the Texas Panhandle and for a pipeline company that delivers natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico to New York City, I’ve been to Amarillo feedlots, I’ve seen the beef processing plants (my son toured Tyson’s plant in Amarillo this summer), my neighbors all grow wheat and corn and cotton and grain sorghum, I have a small herd of cattle, I raise grassfed and grain fed beef, and I work for a company that builds heavy civil/highway projects. Based on everything that I’ve seen, I would tend to believe that the U.S. EPA is reporting U.S. emission sources correctly.
        Actually I’m suprised by how little the environmental groups are doing to solve the real problem, considering how much has been said against Corn and Beef. No one has made much of a deal about how much harm Coal, and Oil, and Industry have done. Maybe they’ve all been watching Hunger Games and like the flaming dress that the Coal girl wears???? Or perhaps the conspiracy is that Coal, Oil, and Industry can pay the environmental groups more than the people who are concerned about the environment can, maybe that is the secret that the Sierra Club is hiding in the film. Should I be worried about getting shot now?

        • Lori Wheeler

          But it’s just not the beef industry, the dairy industry and all animal agriculture is having a huge negative impact on out planet. The rain forests being cleared for cattle, the amount of water it takes to produce one pound of meat or one glass of milk. All these issues combined is why animal agriculture is the worst offender. Many reports from other scientists, Harvard etc say we need to move towards a more plant based diet. If you’ve seen the movie twice I’m surprised you didn’t get all these facts.

          • John Dague

            Ok, so what I watched was the trailer, which has no information whatsoever, you have to buy the movie to see it.
            Lori, your goal may be to get everyone in the U.S. to stop eating beef and cheese and milk, but that is a pretty small goal that won’t affect global warming. The real problems are not caused by the cows in the U.S., or all the cows in the world. If you believe that the cows are the real problem in the world, then Coal, and Oil, and Industry have won and the world is lost. Over time, we’ll lose the rainforests, we’ll lose the polar ice caps, and we’ll lose all of the worlds animals except food animals and companion animals. The puppies, the kitties, the cows, the pigs, the sheep, and the chickens will all still be with us, but everything else will be lost.
            If we don’t stop global overpopulation, humans will cover every square inch of the earth, and there will not be any room for anything else. And human beings will continue to add more and more CO2 to the environment.
            Think about this Lori, say you could flip a switch and convince everyone in the U.S. to stop eating cows right now, and all of the ranchers in the U.S. would go home and kill all of their cows and dispose of them tonight. Do you think that would solve any problems? Here is the answer, no, because the U.S. herd is so small that it has no affect on the environment. So, now you have to reach out to the globe and ask them to kill all of their cows. And the people of the earth are not going to do this, because they are hungry and the cows are their source of food and fuel. Cattle provide them with milk and meat that they need to survive.
            So, lets say that we are able to get these people to kill their livestock and get rid of them. Now many of the people of the world will have nothing to eat but you and me and Koala bears and Elephants and giraffes and zebras and chimpanzees. Many of the people of the world live in areas where crops won’t grow, or they’d be growing crop instead of raising cattle. So we teach them to plow and plant crops. and since the places that they live won’t grow crops, we have to cut down the rain forest to have a place to plant crops, then we have to increase our production of fertilizer to maintain the crops, these things all lead to more and more problems.
            Now lets say that you have another switch, and you can flip this switch and the people of the world will stop procreating, they’ll stop reproducing. After a while, the population will begin to reduce. That means that the number of people who are raising cattle would begin to reduce, and the number of people burning coal and oil would begin to reduce, and as people begin to be more scarce, there arre fewer people poaching elephants, fewer people hunting tigers, and fewer people burning forests to build their homes, and heat their homes, and make way for cropland.
            But we don’t have a switch like that. But now say that we had a switch to take away coal and oil and natural gas. If we could take away fossil fuel it would do two things. First it would cut CO2 emissions from these sources, which would be about a 90% cut in worldwide CO2 emissions. Second, people would have to work harder to take care of themselves, and work harder to feed themselves and their families, just as they did in the past. If you realized how hard it would be for you to feed yourself without modern technology, you would thiink twice about bringing another human being into this world. And you would have to be more responsible about reproduction, because if you had more children that you could feed, they would perish, and you might perish. It sounds harsh, but it is the way the world has worked for millions of years, and it will eventually be a way that returns to the earth after humans consume all of the worlds resources. So we can continue to develop the world as fast as we can and pave over every square inch until we are left with nothing left to eat except test tube meat, or we can start practicing conservation and save some of the world’s forests and animals and have a better place to live.

          • Lori Wheeler

            Ok that explains it then as the trailer is just a teaser as the Sierra Club guy admits it in the film. Check their website to see if it’s playing close to you. Or it available to download in Nov.

          • John Dague

            Lori, do you live in a farming community, or do you raise food animals or crops, do you raise most of your own food in a garden? I’m curious about this, about you and others who are outspoken on this subject. There seem to be a lot of people telling others what foods to produce and what foods to eat. I’m just curious if the people giving the advice actually work to produce their own food, or have a true knowledge about what is required to produce the food. My guess is most people giving the advice don’t actually make thier living growing crops or raising livestock, and the only knowledge that they have is what they have heard from someone else, or from someone who is an “animal advocate”, or someone who wants to encourage others to live the same lifestyle that they are.
            Consider that most of your ancestors had to grow their own food and had a very different opinion about food. Lori, if you don’t grow your own food, did your parents grow their own food, or your grandparents, or great-grandparents. How many generations are you from people in your family that used to raise their own food.
            I live in a farming community where alot of folks grow row crops or make their living farming or ranching or both. I remember my great-grandmother raised chickens and all of her pillows were stuffed with chicken feathers, and we’d eat chicken and dumplings a lot, and she’d sing the “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain”, the verses about killing the old red rooster, and having chicken and dumplings when she comes.
            Central Texas has a strong German heritage, and a guy that I work with tells me often about both of his German grandfathers, how they both had dairies and he has fond memories of working with his grandfather on the dairy.
            My children feed our beef steers, and it gives them respect and admiration for the animals, and a knowledge of where their food comes from. They love taking care of the animals, the steers and the heifers and the cows and the bull.

          • Lori Wheeler

            I have a few plants on my balcony but that’s it this year. Have a greenhouse that deer broke into a couple of years ago and had a feast. lol Glad they enjoyed it! We live in kinda a rural area not far from the city. We can not feed the planet on a diet of meat and dairy so that is another reason to move away from a meat heavy diet. The water consumption alone is just too much. Here’s a good article that just came up on my newsfeed tonight.

          • John Dague

            Lori, you have a valid concern, and that is the loss of the rain forests. But I have cattle, and I can tell you this for a fact, cattle can’t cut down a rain forest. This is done by people. They are clearing the forest to produce more beef because of greater demand for beef in Europe and Asia. Most of the beef that is sold in the U.S. is born and raised here in the United States. Beef sold in the U.S. is not coming from the rain forests. Attacking the U.S. beef industry is not going to save the rain forests. The only way to stop increasing beef production in South America is to reduce the demand in South America, Europe, and Asia. And the best, most sustainable way to reduce demand on these other continents is to reduce global population. The best way to do that is to support programs and education that work to reduce over-population.

            The U.S. beef industry has no involvement in destruction of rain forests. U.S. cow-calf operators are small guys like me. They operate inside of the U.S. and they have a very small herd, the average is 40 cows per farm. This is where beef that you see in the grocery store comes from. It eventually goes through a large feeding and processing facility, but it spends over half of its life grazing grass on a small farm or ranch in the United States. The number of beef cows in the U.S. has been steadily declining for the last 40 years. U.S. beef is not cutting down the rain forest.

            And the U.N. Food and Agriculture report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, actually recomended increasing industrial beef feeding facilities like we have in the United States, to reduce the global impact that cattle have on the environment. U.S. beef is the “good guy” of beef production.

          • Lori Wheeler

            But you can’t tell the rest of the world to eat mess meat and the US to keep eating all it wants! Remember it’s not just the rainforests but the huge amounts of water needed to raise cattle and produce meat, that is a huge concern also! And 95% of meat produced in the US comes from factory farms not small family owned farms.

          • John Dague

            Lori, I understand that your mind is made up and nothing will sway you, but I wanted to share two things with you.

            The first is an article that shows the increase in exports for Brazilian beef, and where this beef is going. In the article it says that Brazil is the second largest beef exporter after Australia. The article says most of the beef from Brazil went to Russia, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Chile, and Iran. It also mentions the United Kingdom as a destination for Brazillian beef.

            The second thing I wanted to share with you is a video of Frank Mitloehner speaking about how U.S. ranches and dairies are working to feed more people, more efficiently, with fewer animals. He speaks specifically about the efficiency of California dairy cows, and how developing countries could reduce the environmental impact of their livestock by making improvements similar to the United States dairy herd. At the end of the video there is a note that states: Following his challenge of “Livestocks Long Shadow” the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization asked Mitloehner to serve on the steering committee to monitor livestock’s impact on the environment.

          • Lori Wheeler

            Again no mention of the water! Dairy is not efficient! It takes about 100 gallons of water to produce one glass of milk! How efficient is that, especially when California is in a drought? US consumes the most animal products of all countries and is also the sickest nation in the world!

    • Lori Wheeler

      Some great points John. Although all transportation methods account for 13% of greenhouse gases and all animal agriculture account for 51%. Please try to see the new film Cowspiracy.

  • Lori Wheeler

    Everyone needs to see the new film Cowspiracy!

  • John Dague

    Don’t get me wrong, I love organic vegetables, my parents grow tomatoes and peaches, they are much better than anything that you can buy at a supermarket. And I really don’t want to hurt small farmers, because I am a small rancher, but I say this because it is true and I think it is important to consider for the sustainability of the planet. So here it is, “That bushel of organic carrots that you saw at the farmers market has a higher carbon footprint than the diesel powered tractor-trailer load of conventionally produced beef that you saw at the supermarket”. So I said it, now here is why.

    Think about the organic vegetables that you see at the farmers market. At any farmers market you may see 10, or 15, or 20 farmers there. Now think about the gasoline that each farmer burned driving to get seeds and plants to start their produce garden, consider the many small tractors that they used to plow their gardens, then consider that each one of them delivered their bushel loads of produce in a small delivery van, and think that every week these farmers are burning up the road traveling to many different farmer’s markets each week to sell their organic produce. And consider the compost tea that each farmer used to fertilize those vegetables, using compost made from crop residue and animal waste. That compost, like conventional chemical fertilizer, also releases ammonia and nitrous oxide and methane into the atmosphere. And consider that the guy who applies the compost tea had to make 10 or 15 or 20 trips to different small producer’s farm plots to apply the compost tea. Also, consider that most people who go to a farmers market make a special trip there (in their gasoline powered automobile) to buy their vegetables.

    So, if you think about the fuel that was burned producing and transporting those vegetables, and think about it in terms of “food-per-gallon” instead of miles-per-gallon, you’ll begin to see how organic vegetables from the small local producer at the farmers market could kill our planet. The amount of gasoline and diesel burned per calorie of food in the organic carrots is much higher than the amount of gasoline and diesel in the conventionally produced beef, raised in a large scale feedlot, delivered in a monstrous diesel fueled tractor-trailer rig. It is called “economy of scale”, it gives the big producers a competitive advantage in terms of economics and resources used to produce a product. Thank God that only a small amount of our “food system” is grown and delivered this way, or else we’d be in even more trouble environmentally than we already are. And the things that people are saying about how our “food system” is killing the planet, they’d all be true.

    I would love to live in a world where the small farmer has the advantage. We did at one time in the past, and I think we could return to that if we all really wanted to. But it will take more work on the part of everyone, just like it did in the past. To make it a reality, we are going to have to return to a world where the energy source is wind and solar. If you really consider the things that will kill the planet, they can be traced back to a very few sources: Overpopulation, Coal fuel, Oil fuel, Natural Gas fuel. These are all things that have allowed our development at a speed that has not before occurred in the 4.9 billion years of the earth’s existence. And these are the things that will eventually cause the end of life as we have known it in the past.

    So forget your omnivore’s dilemma, and your botany of desire. Think about this, The Death of the Planet: Procreation, Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      It is widely documented that food miles represent only 5-10% of total food system emissions. Agriculture as a whole is good for around 25% of total emissions globally. Moreover agriculture is responsible for 75% of deforestation and over 75% of water use. Cattle by themselves are good for 15% of total global emissions (once you include their deforestation share). Using US examples gives no perspective as they use twice as much energy as even rich europeans or japanese. The only thing that outranks agricultural emissions is the power sector, due largely to Chinese coal growth. To pretend beef and milk production isn’t a problem is to simply not look at the data. And in case you are wondering extensively grazed cattle tend to have higher emissions due to slow growth rates

      • John Dague

        Lindsay, I’m not sure what data that you say that I am not looking at, because I have looked at every scientific document regarding emissions and cattle that I can find. I will tell you this, most of the information that is easy to find has been cooked up by some political policy maker, or animal activist, or journalist who is misleading people to sway opinions or sell books. The one college that has an entire program built around climate change and greenhouse emissions is Iowa State University and they have written many peer reviewed scientific reports, and the one animal scientist that earned her PhD studying the environmental effects and sustainability of meat animals is Dr. Jude Capper. I know you are unfamiliar with both Dr. Capper and the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, else you would not be so mis-informed. I think Lori Wheeler mentioned Harvard studies, I didn’t even know that Harvard had an animal science program, I thought they were a business and law school. By the way Lindsay, what did you study that makes you so qualified to interpret “the data”? Was it engineering, animal science, climate-change meterology, maybe you have a PhD in atmospheric chemistry? What was the magazine that you read that in, and who was the journalist, you are not speaking about scientific data.

        What you have been reading is something someone imagined-up to influence you to buy their magazine. It is not science, it is non-sense. And I happen to know what it takes to feed beef cattle, because I feed beef steers myself, thank you very much. And by the way Lindsay, unless you live near Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station, or another nuclear energy plant, your electric car runs on coal and produces more CO2 emissions than my Angus bull.

        You speak about agriculture as if these problems are created by someone else. You do realize that if you eat food, you are the source of the agriculture problem, if you use electricity, you are the source of the coal problem, if you buy anything made of steel you are the source of the coal problem, if you buy carbonated beverages in an aluminum can, you are the source of the coal problem, if you travel in a vehicle that burns fossil fuel, you are the source of the petroleum problem, and if you work or do business at any place that uses electricity or petroleum fuel, you are the source of the problem. We all are guilty. It is the attitude that it is someone else causing the problem that is creating the problem. Do you realize that the average U.S. citizen is responsible for creating twice the emissions of people from Europe or China? And Texas, where I live is the worst offender, we burn more coal for air conditioning, and we drive more miles on the highway, plus there is oil and gas and coal in Texas, so there are many businesses that are energy intensive that are located in Texas, like gasoline refineries, Alcoa Aluminum, and Chaparral Steel is here making steel beams for buildings. So we are all responsible for carbon emissions. I just can’t believe how many people there are that are telling other people how to live their lives, and what the other people are doing wrong, when they are driving electric coal fired cars.

        And just for the record I did attend the University of Texas College of Civil Engineering where I studied Environmental Science.

        • Lindsay Wilson

          I’m an economist with an interest in life cycle analyses. I’m an avid reader of peer review literature on greenhouse gas emissions, as is pretty plain to see on this website. Of course what I do has little to do with the data. Nor does my carbon footprint which is well documented here (it is 5t, a five of an average American). But I’m not interested in pointing fingers, and I eat red meat occasionally. I’m simply pointing out that you are only citing data you find comforting.

          Most nations submit national inventories of these emissions to the UNFCC. Add these numbers up and you’ve got your global emissions. They are very well documented. I’ve already pointed to the best summary a couple of times. Despite what you may think the UN does an extremely good job of collating and debating the current state of scientific knowledge. Note it is not the 51% paper which was activism.

          I believe I have read a few of Cappers papers from memory. In fact I think her ‘Grass always greener?’ paper was in line with my earlier comment about the emissions of extensive vs intensive beef.

          • John Dague

            Lindsay, your carbon footprint is much lower than the national average, you are squeaky clean. So check out this data and tell me where I’m wrong.

            This is an exercise that anyone driving a gasoline or diesel powered car can do to compare their car’s emissions to a cow. In 1992, K.A. Johnson and D.E. Johnson wrote about their study to quantify the amount of methane produced by the U.S. beef and dairy herds.


            In this paper, they reported that 33.83 million beef cows produce 2.29 teragrams (or 2,290 million kilograms) of methane per year. That is 67.7 kilograms per year, per cow, right? Since methane has 28 times the climate change impact of CO2, we multiply this number by 28, to get 1,896 kg CO2e per cow, per year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration tells us that burning one gallon of gasoline produces 19.64 pounds of CO2e per gallon, that is 8.91 kg. So, if you drive 15 miles to work and 15 miles back home each day in a vehicle that gets 20 mpg you have created 13.37 kg of CO2 (30 miles / 20 mpg x 8.91 kg CO2). In that same day, our beef cow has created 5.19 kg CO2e (1,896 kg CO2e/year / 365 days/year). The car produced 2.6 times as much CO2e as the cow.


            Now consider that there now are 245 million cars on the road and only 29 million beef cows (cow inventory has dropping since 1992). The Energy Information Administration tells us that gasoline and diesel fuel contributed to 1,522 million metric tons of CO2 in 2013. The 1992 “Methane Emissions from Cattle” study tells us that the U.S. beef herd and dairy beef produced 4.11 teragrams of methane (the quantity is actually lower today because the beef herd is now smaller). That is equal to 4.11 million tons of methane. Multiplied by 28, it is 115 million metric tons CO2e. Gasoline and diesel produced over 13.2 times as much CO2e as all of the beef cattle combined.
            Also consider the total CO2e in the U.S. was 5,786 million metric tons in 2013. The total CO2e produced by human beings in 2013 was about 58.7 times the CO2e from U.S. beef cattle (about 98.6 million CO2e in 2013)
            These are graphs (created using data from US EPA, US EIA, USDA, FHWA, census, and IEA data) compare the U.S. population, number of registered vehicles in the U.S., the U.S. beef herd inventory, U.S. emissions, U.S. beef herd CO2e from enteric fermentation, global emissions, and global cattle emissions from enteric fermentation. Click on the link, then click “View original” to zoom in for a better view of the graphs.
            The U.S. EPA says that Agriculture produces 10% of the total CO2e emissions. Electricity produces the most CO2e (32%), followed by Transportation (28%), then Industry (20%), followed by Commercial & Residential (10%).
            The U.S. EPA says that Natural Gas and Petroleum Systems release 29% of total U.S. methane emissions, followed by Enteric Fermentation (25%), Landfills (18%), Coal Mining releasing (10%), Manure Management (9%), and Other Sources, like sewage treatment (9%).
            Iowa State University says that enteric fermentation is responsible for 1.5% of total U.S. emissions and manure management is responsible for 0.7% of total U.S. emissions.


            This is a chart from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory showing energy sources and the industries that use energy in the United States. Energy consumption from fossil fuels (Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas) is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S.


            This is Dr. Judith Capper’s paper entitled “Sustainability – The Carbon Footprint of Beef Production” for the American Meat Science Association:


            This is Dr. Judith Capper’s presentation on improved efficiency of beef as well as incorrect data used to influence consumers:


            Dr. Judith Capper speaks about beef cattle sustainability:

          • Lindsay Wilson

            I’m not sure why you need to be wrong? It is pretty clear beef is a small part of the average americans footprints compared to cars or houses. My data, and that of others, seems to suggest it is around 800 kg CO2e per American. Which is about 4% of the total. At this point it is worth mentioning that enteric fermentation is only about a third of this figure. The rest is N2O and CO2.

            I just don’t understand what the point of these relative stats is. It is very simple to say Australia is 1% of international emissions so it shouldn’t do anything, but this makes no sense. Livestock collectively is a huge part of international emissions. US beef production is actually much lower carbon intensity that most other countries due to efficiency, but still a third of all food related emissions.

            Globally livestock is up near 15% of total emissions when deforestation is included (closer to 8% without it it). Livestock emissions are expected to grow dramatically in coming years and China, India and Africa has an increasing taste for it, with the cash to pay. If everyone ate beef like Americans these emissions would more than double.

            As far as I understand Capper her view is that in order for the beef industry to maintain is ‘social license’ they need to do more to address their emissions. She is not burying her head in the sand, she is one of the leading minds around about improving the problem

          • John Dague

            Here is the point. There is s big fuss being made about the impact of cattle on the environment, it is a very popular subject right now. Cattle contribute about 2% to the total U.S. emissions. I don’t hear anyone talking about the thing that contributes the other 98%, and that is primarily fossil fuels.

            Our other huge problem is overpopulation. It is not cattle chopping down the rain forests, it is human beings, and whether they are growing corn or cattle, they need to feed themselves.

            As long as there are folks spreading false and misleading information about the HUGE impact that cattle have on the environment, no one is going to think about the real problems, fossil fuels and overpopulation.

          • Lindsay Wilson

            Come on man, a splinter? Cattle are responsible for 14% of global emissions when deforestation is included. Slightly more than cars. Food is the least covered area of the problem given its relative contribution. Most discussions concerns the power sector, then transport. Embodied emissions in products and food get very little coverage. The idea the media are just picking on cattle without looking at everything else is just not reality. Agriculture is the least discussed area of emissions, together with deforestation and perhaps industries like cement.

          • John Dague

            I didn’t know that a cow could run a chainsaw. I’m going to have my herd saw firewood for me this winter.

            Ok, globally cattle are responsible for a higher percentage of emissions than in the U.S. So lets talk about deforestation. This is not an emission created by cattle, it is created by humans, it is an overpopulation issue. And even if you consider it a cattle problem, you are asking Americans to stop eating U.S. beef, and I have not heard of anyone trying to blame U.S. ranchers for deforestation. Asking Americans to stop eating beef will not help the deforestation issue. The U.S. doesn’t import a lot of beef, we produce most of our own beef domestically. You should be speaking to the Brazilian government in Portugese, right? You should be fighting to block beef exports from Brazil to Europe and Asia. You should be saving your nickles to buy property in Brazil. I think deforestation is a tragedy. I would like to see it stopped. We should be working to encourage eco-tourism, we should be working to educate people to reduce over-population. Doing harm to small cow-calf operations (like me) in the U.S. is not going to reduce deforestation. If you cause enough trouble for me in the U.S. market, I will be forced to move my cattle operation into the Brazillian rainforest. How would that help the issue?

          • John Dague

            UN admits flaw in report on meat and climate change

            The UN has admitted a report linking livestock to global warming exaggerated the impact of eating meat on climate change.


          • Lindsay Wilson

            This story is years old, and not very accurate. There wasn’t a problem with the numbers, simply that the meat aspect was the full lifecycle whereas the transport figures were only combustion. It was simply the boundaries. You’ll note that the updated reported didn’t focus much on curbing consumption but instead focused on improving efficiency as global livestock emissions could be cut by at least 30% just by embracing current best practices

          • Lori Wheeler

            They are chopping down rainforests to graze the cattle! Cattle alone (not other livestock) are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases! Then the other animal agriculture plus the huge water consumption to produce animal protein!


          • Lori Wheeler
          • Lori Wheeler
          • John Dague

            Relative stats: We need to put some effort in getting the timber beam out of our eye before we begin to work on the splinter.

          • Lori Wheeler

            You keep talking about cows (beef cattle) but dairy, poultry, pork industry, egg hatcheries, fish farms etc all contribute as well!
            The one study is from 1992 and since then rainforests have been cleared to make room for cattle, mass breeding in factory farms is even more so since that report from 22 yrs ago. Do some research that isn’t bias from cattle producers etc. anyone making money from animal agriculture is going to argue that they are causing so much harm to our environment!!

          • John Dague

            I am very concerned that I am causing harm to the environment, that is why I am studying, to discover the truth. And I don’t think the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is biased towards cattle producers.
            I’m just saying, for anyone that is truly concerned about the environment (like me) or the destruction of animal habitat (like me) we need to discover what is really causing the problem. And that is fossil fuels and overpopulation.
            And as long as there is false and mileading information used to point the blame away from these things, the problem will continue to get worse.

  • Lori Wheeler
  • John Dague

    Here Dr. Jude Capper discusses the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report that began this whole idea that cattle have more environmental impact than cars:

    • Lori Wheeler

      The last paragraph is pretty funny! Bottom line is they care about money not the environment! The amount of water alone that it takes to raise animal protein is ridiculous especially when places like CA are so dry! Big huge waste of water growing crops for livestock and water for them to drink. Much less used growing crops for humans to eat.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      I now see why you seem intent on comparing international numbers to American ones. The figures of cattle emissions between 2006 and 2012 didn’t change much, they were around 7 Gt CO2e. But because everything else was growing so fast it has dropped from 18% globally to around 14%. If US efficiency was managed globally this would drop further. But sadly demand is rising much faster than any efficiency improvements so emissions are on the up

      • John Dague

        Yes ma’am, I agree with you, we need to curb demand, we need to reduce the human population. Everyone is so intent on growing their business and industry bigger and bigger, but the planet stays the same size, we can not continue to grow our population, this is the thing that is unsustainable. I think this is a huge problem, but not a lot of attention is being directed at reducing the human population of our planet. It is causing habitat losses for wild animals, it is causing global climate change and loss of the polar ice caps, this is THE problem.

  • John Dague

    I tend to believe that, given all of the facts, intelligent people will recognize the truth.

  • John Dague

    Meat Eating vs. Driving: Another Climate Change Error?,8599,1975630,00.html

    • Lindsay Wilson

      Why don’t you stop reading journalism (with all its spin) and just go look at the data. If you want a balanced opinion it makes no sense to look at partisan stories. Just go look at the numbers, they are extremely self explanatory. The link below is a great start:

      • John Dague
        I’m not saying that we don’t have a huge problem on our hands. I’m just saying that we need to do something about it, something that will make a difference. Look at who is producing the CO2, look at the prime offenders. On the website, the picture on the left is a picture of a coal fired electric power plant belching 91% of the worlds CO2, the picture on the right is a picture of a burning forest in South America generating 9% of the worlds CO2. Neither of these things are representative of agriculture in the United States. If you live in the United States, changing your diet may make you feel good, it may make you feel like you have done something for the environment. But the reality is that what we eat in the U.S. does not have a significant effect on climate change. You need to be telling people in the U.S. to stop driving their cars, to stop buying new cars, to stop buying aluminum cans, to turn off their electricity. These are the things that will make real change. If you can figure out some way to get South Americans to stop burning their forests, this will make real change.

        • Lindsay Wilson

          There are a hundred pages on this website, 2 or 3 of them are about food choices. Take a look at my 30 Day Video Series. Only one out of 30 is about food choices.

          The idea that we can just focus on cars and electricity is nonesense. Any one of the major sectors (power, transport, industry and food) contributes beyond the current sink capacity of the earth. Saying we have a big power or transport problem does not negate the agricultural emissions. Just blaming population is little better.

          At this point I think Upton Sinclair would simply say:

          “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”

          • John Dague

            I did not see your video series, and I did not realize that you were in the UK. I apologize, you are doing all the good. The global effect on the environment, and the U.S. effect on the environment, they’re two seperate subjects.

            You might be able to imagine in a country where the per capita CO2 emissions are 18 tons per year, and some states have per capita emissions from 49 to 113 tons, how coal, oil, and natural gas are a huge part of those emissions. And right now, in the U.S., there are so many people here beating a drum to say that our farmers and ranchers are responsible for this, when agriculture is such a small part of the problem here in the U.S. People in this country have no idea what they are doing to the environment. And for people who live in the U.S. to blame a small sector of agriculture for creating environmental problems is obsurd. It IS the difference between a timber beam and a splinter in the U.S.

            I see now, your messages to Europeans about beef consumption, and changing their diet, could have an impact on global deforestation. Agriculture does play a larger role in global emissions. But the worst offenders are in the U.S., and they are driven by coal, oil, and natural gas. I’m sure the world would be a better place if our industries would just slow the hell down.


          • Lindsay Wilson

            Thank you, I appreciate the sentiment. Incidentally if you really want to use statistics to defend the efforts of the US beef industry please don’t bother with the Telegraph, Time or some ranchers association powerpoint. It all has a spin.

            Just go straight to the EPA. There you can see that beef and milk emissions are completely stable from 1990-2012. This is because the gains in efficiency have curtailed any demand growth. Here’s a link. The EPA and EIA do incredible stats, but if you want the full GHG stuff the EPA is better.


            Cappers point about being proactive on this issue to defend the social license of the industry make sense to me from the industry perspective. Not that ya’ll will every give up your hamburgers 😉

          • John Dague

            Lindsay, check this out:

            This was written a moment ago when the world’s population was 6.44 billion. Today we’re at 7.25 billion and climbing. This is what scares me the most, more than anything else.

          • Lori Wheeler

            From that same above publication is this! And also many other pro plant based diet/less meat articles on world watch!


          • John Dague

            The pigs, the chickens, the cows, they don’t scare me nearly as much as the humans. You are probably right, we need to get rid of some animals on this earth. But few people are considering getting rid of the animal that is doing the most harm.

          • John Dague

            When you start talking about food, and how it affects greenhouse emissions, you could argue that all of our food is responsible for 100% of man made greenhouse gases, because it is what allows humans to live and reproduce, and that allows us to burn coal and petroleum at a faster and faster rate each year.

          • Lori Wheeler

            No matter how many studies say the majority of greenhouse gases and the huge water use etc causing damage to our environment is animals raised to feed humans, you just don’t seem to want to see the truth! Most of the crops grown are used to feed to animals and then people eat the animals, not very efficient way to feed humans! So time to take your blinders off and face the facts and see the truth!

          • John Dague

            Yes ma’am. I see the recurring trend. The problems are caused by humans, and the things humans do. I am in total agreement with you.

          • Lori Wheeler

            Exactly, humans raising mass amounts of animals for food!

          • John Dague

            I’ve been speaking with the animals, and we have come to a unanimous conclusion, that the world would be a better place with fewer humans and more animals, so the cows can stay.

          • Lori Wheeler

            Yes agree animals can stay if they aren’t being mass produced for food for people! Let them live their natural life instead of being sent to slaughter!! Factory farming needs to end and there is not enough land to graze cattle to feed everyone grass fed beef, so again back to the right thing to do for our planet, ourselves and the animals, a plant based diet <3

          • John Dague

            You’re going to love this Lori. You are absolutely right. And your Harvard study that says we will return to a more plant based diet, absolutely right. And there is a reason the study came from a business school and not animal scientists or climate meterorologists. It all has to do with business and economics, and the way of the future. The wealthy men from New York City who are all spreading the idea that corn and corn fed beef are “unsustainable:” they are correct. I have seen the light, and I’m not kidding this time.

          • Lori Wheeler

            Again you have never said anything about the huge water use to raise animals for food!!! Time to take the blinders off John!

          • Lindsay Wilson

            You don’t want to start me on population. Population growth is a big issue, it also happens to be the go to excuse of rich white people that have caused most of the problem and want to blame someone else.

            Until Americans, Australians, Canadians, Japanese and Europeans sort their own emissions out the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians will have a valid reason to take limited action.

            On the bright side the population battle is actually being won slowly. Actually part of the reason emissions have grown so much. If you are really interested go watch Rosling:


          • John Dague

            I totally agree with you, rich white people have caused most of the problem. And every day, there are more and more of them, burning more and more resources. And they are doing everything they can to encourage the rest of the world to join them. And when the rest of the world starts burning through resources like the average American, the whole world is in trouble.

            Maybe you can begin a campaign to castrate American males. I’ve got experience with this subject, I’ve got tools to use for castration.

            And I’ve seen the map that shows who is burning the most resources, I know. I know there are wealthy men and women who have made their fortunes by encouraging others to live a lavish life and I think it is doing no one any good, except those at the top.

          • John Dague

            I like that talk from Hans Rosling. He is very optomistic about the future. I’ve heard that idea of a relationship between child survival rates and population increase from others.
            I really would like to ask Hans some questions about the future:
            When we get to 9 Billion, and a third of the people are burning through resources like the Americans, how will we prevent burning up the atmosphere, unless we have converted totally to wind and solar and wave energy?
            With our infrastructure designed around fossil fuel, and with a large supply of cheap fossil fuel to burn, what would motivate us to invest in infrastructure to switch to wind and solar and wave energy before we have burned up all of the fossil fuel? Why would anyone want to use their wealth to save the world for others, when they could increase their wealth by consuming the world for themselves.
            When and if we do eventually burn up all fossil fuel, what will be the earth’s carrying capacity without this energy source? Will we return to a population of less than 1 billion that existed before the invention of the steam engine? Or do we burn up the last of our fossil fuels manufacturing machines that can harvest enough nitrogen and energy from the wind, waves, and sun to support 9 billion people?
            If we do eventually return to a population of 1 billion, what will the transition look like? War, famine, starvation, disease, and cannibalism?
            I really don’t need to worry about these questions, because I will never live long enough to see them answered, but I worry my children and grandchildren will.

          • John Dague

            Lindsay, I’ve been obsessed with this idea that is coming from New York journalists, that corn and corn fed beef is not “sustainable”. What do they know about corn and beef? They are not farmers or ranchers, right? Well they may be right.

            The Saudis say they have enough oil to last 100 years. Well that will be here in a blink of an eye. And at the rate that global population is growing, and the rate that developing nations are increasing their use of fossil fuels, it’s no longer a question of if we will use up all of the world’s fuel, it’s just a matter of time. When the tractors stop running, and when we can no longer produce fertilizer from large deposits of natural gas, we will probably begin to see fewer and fewer acres of land planted in corn.

            When we have used up all of our fuel, there will not be enough human labor to plant all of the crops that we are growing right now. When that happens, there will be food shortages and people will once again have to grow their own food. My grandparents and great-grandparents survived on pinto beans, corn bread, okra, and tomatoes, chicken and dumplings, catfish, and squirrel. They didn’t own a lot of land, so instead of cattle, they raised chickens, and sometimes pigs. Their hobbies included fishing and hunting. This is the message that we are hearing right now from New York. This is the way of the future.

            When farmers start to become unable to plant all of their cropland to corn, the grass prairies will return to North America. Since there will not be enough labor to plant vast areas to crops, the only way to harvest food and energy from most of the land will require using grass and ruminant animals. The wealthy will still eat steak, the poor will eat beans, or cornbread, or whatever they can grow or catch. And I laughed when they said “grassfed beef will save the earth”.

            The wealthy men who own the New York media now, they see what is coming over the horizon. Their efforts to bash cattle and corn may be to allow them to buy cattle and property without causing a huge run-up on the price of commodities. The price of live cattle and land has about quadrupled within the last 5 years. Ted Turner is one of the biggest buyers, he has 2 million acres of land and 55,000 North American bison.

            Studies are being conducted on the possibility of using grasslands to grow raw material for production of cellulosic ethanol. The studies have concluded that the locations best suited for growing grass are the areas that are currently used to grow corn. And I thought that is a silly idea, farmers are expanding acreage of land planted to corn. No farmer is going to convert their corn field to grass. “Studies indicate that future potential production of cellulosic ethanol is likely to be much greater than grain- or starch-based ethanol”. It will happen when we start to run out of fossil fuel.








      • John Dague

        I’ve been reading over the link that you told me about, the revised U.N. FAO estimate for livestock emissions. And I found another report “The significance of livestock as a contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions today and in the near future” It is interesting to note that this report says North America and Europe produce meat and milk more efficiently, while creating less methane, compared to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

        It’s totally crazy to say that cattle in the U.S. produce as much greenhouse gas as a car, or to think that U.S. beef is contributing to deforestation. And since transport is responsible for 22% of the global CO2, the world’s cattle don’t contribute to global climate change as much as transport. But everything I’ve read is pointing to global cattle contributing about 7% to greenhouse gases from enteric fermentation, and another 9% can be attributed to agriculture land use change (deforestation). The total global contribution of cattle to greenhouse gases, it is a significant source.

        The people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who have the most cattle, those producing the most greenhouse gas, for those folks (really for everyone that owns cattle, including me) cattle are a part of their culture and heritage, in some countries they use the cattle to plow their fields and transport their crops, they worship these cattle, they rely on cattle to survive. They aren’t going to let go of their cattle. I still believe that the way to reduce the population of cattle is to reduce the population of people.

        Keep up your good work. Right now you are doing much more to help the environment than I am.

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  • Christine Clarke

    Thanks for crunching the numbers on this! I had often wondered how much impact various lifestyle changes have, versus each other.

    My personal interest is this: I try to bike everywhere, and I try to eat less meat. It is easy for me to bike everywhere, it is hard for me to reduce my meat consumption because my husband isn’t interested in reducing his meat consumption and we split everything we eat.

    Now I can see that by biking (and taking the ferry) to work every day, I produce about 6 lbs of CO2 per day on transit (got this from a transit calculator for ferries divided by the average number of passengers). If I drive my car, I produce about 48 lbs of C02 per day on transit (got this from 20 lbs of CO2 per gallon of fuel burned).

    Whereas with my more-or-less average diet, I indirectly produce about 14 lbs of CO2 per day from food, and if I went totally vegetarian then I would produce 9 lbs of CO2 per day. And vegan produces about 8 lbs of CO2 per day.

    I’m still actively trying to reduce my meat intake, but it looks like eating vegetarian is a lot more work for diminishing returns, whereas riding my bike everywhere is not much work at all for huge returns.

    Hopefully I am not being flippant or misunderstanding the numbers you’ve reported, but it seems to me that humans eating anything at all inherently has a big carbon footprint, and by eating purposefully to reduce emissions, your footprint still pretty big (but slightly less so). I had actually hoped that eating vegetarian/vegan would have had a much bigger impact, since it is so much work.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      These are based on the average US food production system as well as accounting for waste. If you’re diet was largely grains, legumes and not too exotics fruit (apples, pears, oranges, bananas) it would be considerably lower than this. A seasonal vegan that eats a lot of apples, potatoes, beans . is kind of as low as it goes I think

      • Christine Clarke

        That is good to hear, and encouraging.

        I am still blown away by how much more carbon is produced by driving a car, versus eating meat. I had a gut feeling it would be more, but apparently it is way way way more. I checked my math many times over when I saw how bad it was just to drive a car relatively short distances on a regular basis.

        • Lindsay Wilson

          Perspective is eveything. People always go on about recycling plastic bags and food miles but they are tiny things. For Americans its the car, electricity, natural gas, flying, meat . . here a map of the average:

          • Christine Clarke

            Thanks for that map! That does help visualize it. Holy moley: driving, natural gas, and electricity make up just about half!

            And of course we both know that there is still non-quantifiable pollution with farming, like runoff and other toxins, which is perhaps more with animal husbandry than with crops (but not nonexistent in crops). I’m not ignoring that; but being non-quantifiable, those things are, well… non-quantifiable.

            I was going to tell you my anecdotes about how I always see vegans claiming seemingly-preposterous numbers about how eating meat is 500billion times worse than driving a car, and how I wonder where that comes from, but it would seem they’ve already caught my scent here…

    • Lori Wheeler

      Animal agriculture causes the most greenhouse gases of any other industry, more than all transportation methods combined. A vegan driving a Hummer produces less than a meat/dairy eater driving a Smart Car! Watch the film Cowspiracy.

      • Lindsay Wilson

        While I admire your passion, there isn’t much data behind this assertion. Animal agriculture is about 7.1 Gt CO2e annual (even with land use included), about the same as transport. But the power sector is pushing 12 Gt. As for Hummer vs Smart, based on the average American mileage that simply isn’t true. The average American foodprint is about 2.5t, whereas for driving its pushing 6t. You can make bigger cuts with a Prius than you can with your fork as an Average American. Here’s a map:

        • Lori Wheeler

          If you are really concerned about this subject you really need to watch the film Cowspiracy!! Not sure if it’s playing anymore but I think it’s going to be available on DVD this month. Look on their website.

          • Lindsay Wilson

            Yeah, I do need to watch it at some point. I don’t understand why their facts page uses such old or bad studies. They are picking the most sensationalist numbers. These don’t accord with the IPCC and FAO numbers. That said the issue gets nothing like the press it deserves so I don’t doubt the film has raised profile of the issue

          • Lori Wheeler
        • John Dague

          Lindsay, I saw this map of where food comes from. It says that your beef in the UK is likely to come from Agentina. That is a long trip. And It shows some fuits and vegetables that come to the UK that make a long journey too.

          Hey, I know you are good at calculating carbon footprints. I would like you to consider calculating the carbon footprint of two foods for me. I have not done this, so I don’t know which would have the smaller footprint, but I’m curious about this. How would a 300 g British produced grassfed beef steak, wrapped in butcher paper, comare with an equal portion (by protein) of canned Delmonte greenbeans from California. That would be 108 grams of protein, so 5 of the 6.3 lb cans of green beans from Delmonte in California, US? Consider the carbon dioxide equivalent created to plow, plant, fertilize, harvest, process, package (including manufacturing the package material), and deliver both (beef and green beans) to your kitchen in the UK.

          And also, when you say that transport produces 7.1 Gt CO2e (animal ag about the same as transport) what does that give me for transport? Does that include the carbon released from mining the metal for the cars, buses, trucks, motor bikes, airplanes, locomotives, subways, and ships? Does it include the carbon to refine the steel and aluminum, and to produce the plastics, the rubber, the copper, the lead, and the glass? The carbon to transport raw materials and fabricate the vehicle components? The carbon to tranport and assemble the components into a vehicle? The carbon to deliver and market the vehicle? The carbon to explore and drill for crude oil, to transport the crude to a refinery, to refine the crude into gasoline and diesel and jet fuel? Does it include the transportation of fuel to market and marketing of the fuel? Does it include construction of roads and bridges and tunnels and rails and parking lots and terminals (subway, rail, and bus) and airports and runways and ports? Does it include the manufacture of the cement, the aggregates, the structural steel, the reinforcing steel, and the asphalt for transportation infrastructure? Does it include maintenence and repair of the vehicles and infrastructure? And finally does it include CO2e created by the fuel consumed by all of the vehicles (cars, trucks, motor bikes, buses, airplanes, locomotives, subways, and ships) including all coal burned for all manufacturing and any production of electricity?

      • Christine Clarke

        I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.

        Just some quick, back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that bike-riding-meat-eaters would have to be eating at least one whole cow a day, every single day, to come close to your vegan-driving-a-hummer-everywhere:

        There are ~1.5 billion cows in the world
        There are ~7 billion people in the world
        There are ~5 billion (active) cars in the world

        Each cow emits about 220 lbs of methane per year (mostly through belching, but also through flatulence), which comes out to about 0.6 lbs of methane per day. Doing a rough calculation assuming that methane is about 23x “worse” than CO2 in terms of the environment, we might say it is roughly equivalent to ~20 lbs of CO2 per cow per day.

        Assume every car is a modest 20mpg car with about a 15-20 mile commute every day. That means every car is producing ~50 lbs of CO2 per day.


        (5 billion cars)x(50 lbs CO2) = 250 billion lbs of CO2 per day from cars

        (1.5 billion cows)x(20 lbs “CO2 equivalent”) = 30 billion lbs of “CO2 equivalent” per day from cows

        Or if you don’t like that “conversion” from CH4 to CO2 (I don’t, so I wouldn’t blame you):

        (1.5 billion cows)x(0.6 lbs CH4) = 0.9 billion lbs of CH4 per day from cows.

        I even assumed that nobody owned hummers, and cars as still BY FAR the worse of the two “evils.”

        • Lori Wheeler

          It is not just methane that is causing all the environmental problems. Also you mention cattle, but what about pigs, chickens, turkey and fish farms?
          Much of the rainforest is being cleared in South America to grow crops for cattle, that is having a huge impact on our environment. With the human population growing there is no way to feed everyone a meat/dairy diet. It would take more than one planet of resources to do so! 80% of corn and soy grown is used to feed animals that people eat all of that is also considered in these numbers. Takes a lot of water to make meat and dairy/cheese, not just to grow the crops but also give to the animals to drink. Way more than it would to grow crops for people to eat on a plant based diet. Anyone concerned with our environment must watch the film Cowspiracy, then you will see how all these numbers add up to animal agriculture being the #1 cause of climate change. We must change to producing less animal products and to lean towards a plant based diet!

          • Christine Clarke

            Those numbers you ask after are already in this blog post above, which is why I didn’t think I needed to state them again, and seem very reproducible based on all the data I can find out there (these figures include feed/fertilizer, transportation, maintenance of the animals/crops, etc):

            Average American diet: ~14 lbs of CO2 per day
            Meat lover’s diet: ~18 lbs of CO2 per day
            No-red-meat diet: ~10 lbs of CO2 per day
            Vegetarian diet: ~9 lbs of CO2 per day
            Vegan diet: ~8 lbs of CO2 per day

            Average car for an average commute: ~50 lbs of CO2 per day
            Hummer for an average commute: ~60 lbs of CO2 per day

            So it seems very irresponsible to suggest that “A vegan driving a Hummer produces less than a meat/dairy eater driving a Smart Car!” when actually, the facts don’t reflect this at all. I don’t care what “Apocalypse Cow” or “Cowpocalypse” say.

            Yes, it is important for everybody to eat less meat, especially red meat; but it is way more important that we stop burning fossil fuels. It is irresponsible to suggest that burning fossil fuels is no big deal.

          • Lori Wheeler

            Oh I don’t think it isn’t a big deal at all. I’m all for solar and wind power, resources we won’t run out of and clearer to produce power etc with. But we can’t feed the world on a meat/dairy diet and people aren’t going to stop traveling and need modes of transportation but people can survive very well on a plant based diet. Better for our bodies, the environment and of course the animals that suffer because of human greed.

          • Lori Wheeler

            And why wouldn’t you care about a documentary on the environment? It’s called Cowspiracy and I think everyone that does care about what is going on and where our world is headed should watch.

          • D fong

            Hi Christine, I agree that it is very important to stop or minimize burning fossil fuel. Animal agriculture is extremely fossil-fuel dependent, especially in the production of feed crop. On average, it takes 8-10 times more fossil fuel to produce one unit of animal protein vs. one unit of plant protein, both for human consumption. Not everyone drives and not everyone owns a home, but everyone eats. Most, if not all of us, are capable of fighting climate change every bite of every meal of every day by not consuming animal products. I will provide more data later – sorry next month perhaps as I am in a time crunch right now. Cheers.

          • John Dague

            Lori, the main reason that people are saying that animal based agriculture is harmful to the environment is because of the nitrous oxide emissions and the runoff created by fertilizer that is used to grow plant based crops for the animals. So the idea that we can plant more crops and feed more people if we get rid of animal agriculture, this idea is bad for the global environment for two reasons. The first reason is that planting more crops would use more fertilizer, causing more nitrous oxide greenhouse gas emissions and more damage to the water quality of streams and rivers from fertilizer runoff. The second reason is that anything we do to add to the human population is terrible for the environment, because people use more gasoline and coal and natural gas than animals, they cut down more forests than animals, and they destroy more natural resources than animals. We should all try to live a lifestyle that is more natural, like the animals. Our entire existence is dependent upon it.

            And Lori, you keep mentioning water consumption as a reason to give up animal agriculture. I just looked this up, the average American uses 176 gallons of water per day. I fill up water troughs for our heifers, so I know exactly how much water they are drinking. Our heifers are using 10 gallons of water per day. Our cows are drinking about 17 gallons of water per day.

            We all need to reduce our carbon footprint to about the same size as a cow’s if we don’t want to completely destroy our environment. Right now the average American has a carbon footprint that is about the size of a herd of 60 cows.

          • Lori Wheeler
        • Lori Wheeler
        • D fong

          Also, Christine, animal agriculture is known to be the leading water-polluter and freshwater waster. Scientists predict that 45% of the world’s population will face fresh water crises by 2015. No fresh water – no healthy food. A global food crisis is looming.

          • John Dague

            D, see what I told Lori:
            Lori, the main reason that people are saying that animal based agriculture is harmful to the environment is because of the nitrous oxide emissions and the runoff created by fertilizer that is used to grow plant based crops for the animals. So the idea that we can plant more crops and feed more people if we get rid of animal agriculture, this idea is bad for the global environment for two reasons. The first reason is that planting more crops would use more fertilizer, causing more nitrous oxide greenhouse gas emissions and more damage to the water quality of streams and rivers from fertilizer runoff. The second reason is that anything we do to add to the human population is terrible for the environment, because people use more gasoline and coal and natural gas than animals, they cut down more forests than animals, and they destroy more natural resources than animals. We should all try to live a lifestyle that is more natural, like the animals. Our entire existence is dependent upon it.

            And Lori, you keep mentioning water consumption as a reason to give up animal agriculture. I just looked this up, the average American uses 176 gallons of water per day. I fill up water troughs for our heifers, so I know exactly how much water they are drinking. Our heifers are using 10 gallons of water per day. Our cows are drinking about 17 gallons of water per day.

            We all need to reduce our carbon footprint to about the same size as a cow’s if we don’t want to completely destroy our environment. Right now the average American has a carbon footprint that is about the size of a herd of 15 cows. You may think that you are not doing anything harmful to the environment, but what we all don’t see is the incredible amount of industrialization that is required to manufacture automobiles, buses, trucks, airplanes, ships, electricity, computers, printers, copy machines, microwave ovens, refridgerators, televisions, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, heaters, mobile phones, buildings, bridges, highways, beverage cans, clothing, shoes, handbags, shopping carts, gasoline, coffee makers, lawn mowers, edge trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, water heaters, bath tubs, commodes, copy paper, drinking water, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, garbage trucks, kitchen sinks………… The list goes on and on.

        • John Dague

          I absolutely agree with you Christine. You have an excellent understanding of where greenhouse gas emissions are being created. In my first pass at comparing cows to cars I did exactly as you have done, I calculated the CO2 that was created from burning a gallon of gasoline. But when I looked at the total energy consumed in the United States transportation and energy sectors, it became very clear that this is a gross underestimation of the amount of energy consumed and CO2 created by automobiles.

          Here are a couple of things that might help to improve your comparison of cows vs. cars:

          Your calculations to add CO2 for what the cow eats is not necessary for most of the cattle on the globe. Since most of the cattle in the world eat grass which is pulling CO2 from the atmosphere, and the carbon is returned to the atmosphere, the net effect is zero. You would only add CO2 for a cow’s diet when the feed is cultivated and fertilized by humans using diesel power and manufactured fertilizer. So that would require an estimate of which cows are on full feed (mostly grain), which cattle are grazing fertilized pastures, and which cattle are grazing unfertilized pastures.

          When you estimated the amount of CO2 produced by cars, you’ll need to add the CO2 produced in the exploration and production of crude oil, transportation of the crude oil to refineries, energy consumed in refining the gasoline, the CO2 created from the construction of the refinery, CO2 created from transporting the gasoline to the gasoline station, the CO2 produced in the construction of the gasoline station, the CO2 produced from the mining of iron ore and bauxite used to manufacture the car, transportation of the raw materials, the energy used to manufacture the mining equipment, the CO2 produced from mining, transporting, and burning the coal that is used to generate the electricity that is used to refine the aluminum and steel that the car is made of, the energy used to create the plastic components of the car, the energy that is used to construct the automobile manufacturing facilities, the energy that is used to fabricate and assemble all of the parts into a completed automobile, the energy used to transport the automobile to the dealership, and the energy used to manufacture the automobile dealership.

          These are things that need to be considered to compare cars to cows. If you wanted to compare cars to beef you would have to add the CO2 created from transporting and feeding and processing the cow to turn the cow into beef, and the CO2 created from transporting and marketing the beef.

          • Christine Clarke

            Yes, I agree with you John, that my calculations for cars was dramatically underestimated whilst my calculations for cows were dramatically overestimated. I assumed those people would know that, obviously, a cow’s diet has a much smaller footprint than a human vegetarian because (even feedlot) cows mostly eat grass for most of their lives (feedlot cattle only gorge on grains in the last parts of their lives). But that was a bad assumption, judging from the responses, so yes you are right I should have been more clear.

            I partially thought that if I obviously did gross generalizations in their favor, showing that the numbers STILL come out as cars being way worse, that would show them how bad cars actually are. But that was stupid of me, given all the responses of “No you’re wrong, watch this movie I saw that says you are wrong.” So I got tired of that and kind of left the discussion. I do appreciate your well-reasoned response, for that reason.

            I still think that the real, actual-scientist data show that my original statement is roughly correct: that a bike-riding meat eater would have to be eating at least one whole cow per day every day of their life, in order to match the carbon footprint of the hummer-driving vegan. And I thought that since I am not a specialist in this field, that we could rely on the data from the specialists once we convinced ourselves that the experts’ data roughly reflects our own back-of-the-napkin calculations.

            I do find your statement here interesting: ” If you wanted to compare cars to beef you would have to add the CO2
            created from transporting and feeding and processing the cow to turn the
            cow into beef, and the CO2 created from transporting and marketing the

            Because the original statement I was responding to specifically said:
            “Animal agriculture causes the most greenhouse gases of any other industry, more than all transportation methods combined.”
            And I was feeling snarky at the time, and I even almost said “well then I guess we can’t count the CO2 released in the transportation of the cows towards the carbon hoofprint of the cows, because that is in fact a transportation method.”

            I personally thought this little Catch-22 was hilarious, but I figured I shouldn’t set out to purposefully antagonize people, so I bit my tongue on that one.

            I’m not saying the meat industry is good for the environment, I’ve never said that. But I do think that people spreading hyped-up misinformation like:
            “Animal agriculture causes the most greenhouse gases of any other
            industry, more than all transportation methods combined. A vegan driving
            a Hummer produces less than a meat/dairy eater driving a Smart Car!”
            is at best disingenuous and at worst dangerous. I’m upset by the misinformation BECAUSE I’m on the same side as them. If that makes any sense. It’s rabid propaganda like that which helps people think global climate change is a conspiracy.

          • John Dague

            You are facing the same thing that I am, the dishonesty is distracting everyone from recognizing the true harm that human beings are doing to the environment. It is a shame, because increased human development is causing real harm to threatened and endangered species. If these people are trying to reduce beef consumption to prevent South Americans from cutting down a rainforests, then that needs to be something that we discuss. But making false and misleading statements about cattle in general, it makes the people who are spreading these ideas look foolish. The problems that we face are complex and difficult problems, they are not going to be solved by a campaign of mis-information. People need to educate themselves on the true cause of a problem if they want to create a solution.

          • Christine Clarke

            Great input, I wish I could frame your comment and hang it on my wall. You’ve summed it up more eloquently than I have, for sure.

            Maybe they don’t know how dangerous their misinformation is for the wild animals of the world, or maybe they do know but don’t care so long as they get people to stop eating meat. Maybe oil lobbyists are somewhere in the mix there. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m sick of hearing that myth.

        • John Dague

          You may find these interesting. They are visual comparisons of things that impact global greenhouse emissions, cattle versus other sources.

          This is a set of graphs which compares the U.S. population, the number of registered vehicles in the U.S., the total beef cow inventory in the U.S., the global population, greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. cattle, and greenhouse gas emissions from global cattle.

          This is a group of photos that I found of the internet. These are the things which contribute to climate change:

          • Christine Clarke

            Those are pretty interesting, thanks so much for sharing! Helps put things in perspective.

      • tony d.

        I would challenge you to perform your own calculations before believing anyone else’s math..

        Here’s my math on CO2 reductions within my own life:

        – 32.7% CO2 reduction from fuel @ 15% overall CO2 (50% car @ 19mpg, 50% motorcycle @ 55mpg)
        > 32.7 * 15 = 490.5 / 100 = 4.905% (overall CO2 emissions)
        – 26.4% CO2 reduction from food @ 20% overall CO2
        > 26.4 * 20 = 528 / 100 = 5.28% (overall CO2 emissions)
        = my overall CO2 reduction: 4.905 + 5.28 = 10.185%

        – if commuting via motorcycle alone: 65.4% CO2 reduction from fuel @ 15% overall CO2
        > 65.4 * 15 = 981 / 100 = 9.81% (overall CO2 emissions)
        – if straight vegan: 40% CO2 reduction from food @ 20% overall CO2
        > 40 * 20 = 800 / 100 = 8% (overall CO2 emissions)
        – if commuting only via bicycle: 15% overall CO2 emissions reduction.
        – if I die: 20% overall CO2 emissions reduction.

    • D fong

      Hi Christine, you are absolutely correct that our mere existence on Earth will cause us to leave some footprint on the planet. Most, if not all, of us have choice. We can’t choose to leave a footprint or not, but we can choose the size of the footprint we will leave. The benefit of eating plant-based diets is grossly underestimated in a lot of literature, in my humble opinion. Veganism is a refusal to partake in social injustices to all sentience beings on earth, which in and of itself is priceless. Plant-based eating is scientifically proven to significantly reduce public healthcare costs, which will benefit everyone. But the savings are not accrued to plant-based eating in any literature I can found. Health is not a luxury. Rather, it is a driver for economical growth over the long run. Again, we don’t quantify the financial benefits brought on by healthy plant-based eating. Here are only a few examples that come to my mind at the moment. I will elaborate more later if anyone is interested.

    • John Dague

      Here is the real reason that so many New York journalists are concerned about food and not so worried about transportation:

      In NYC, 65% of the people either walk or take public transportation to work, and 54% of the households don’t own cars.

      But 97% of the food in NYC is delivered by truck. The primary food distribution center in NYC (Hunts Point Distribution Center) doesn’t have enough refridgerated storage space, so they store much of their food in idling diesel powered refridgerated trucks.

      21.4% of the residential waste in NYC is food scraps, and an even larger portion of NYC waste comes from food packaging and food service.

      A Cornell University study estimated that all of the agricultural land in New York State could produce enough food to feed only about 21% of their current population. They don’t have enough land to grow food to feed everyone.

      NYC vegans and vegitarians are beginning to realize the importance of meat and milk. The Cornell University study study says “In New York State, more land is suited to perennial forage production (pasture, dry hay, haylage, and greenchop) than for growing annual crops (corn, soy, wheat, and vegetables). In other words, land suited to the production of dairy and meat but not fruits, grains, and vegetables is more readily available, making it theoretically possible to feed more people who eat a modest amount of meat than those whose diets are completely vegetarian.”

      A Columbia University research project studied the New York City food supply. Of food that is imported into New York City, 46% (by weight) comes from the Northeast, 29% comes from international sources, 10% comes from the South, 8% comes from the Midwest, and 7% comes from the West.

      The population of New York City could easily become unsustainable if they can not deliver and store enough food to feed the city’s population.

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  • D fong

    in 2014 alone, three (3) more independent, peer-reviewed studies
    were released in 2014 – one in Sweden
    & two in the UK – all concluded that
    a significant, global shift
    away from animal products (esp. meat &
    we would not be able to
    stop global warming (and all the detrimental
    consequences) or prevent
    further deterioration of global food
    even if technology could
    help improve food productivity. The international “Solutions for a Cultivated
    Planet” study of 2011 also
    highlighted the wastefulness of animal agriculture. These newer studies
    echo older ones that greening our diet is much effective in fighting climate
    change than driving a more eco-friendly car or reducing domestic water usage.
    Also, greening our diets does not take us away from engaging in other measures
    to fight climate change, social injustices, animal cruelty…

    world hunger? Fighting social injustices? Stopping climate change and global
    warming? Stopping loss of biodiversity? Stopping the pandemic of lifestyle
    diseases, which are stressing public healthcare systems? Preventing the spread
    of superbugs? Wanting to stop land, air and water pollution? Not wanting to
    contribute to animal cruelty? … If your answer is yes to any of these
    questions AND if you want your action to be consistent with your wish(es),
    please take animal products off your plate. You will lose nothing to not eat
    animals; rather, you will gain good health (if you are not already healthy) and
    ethics back.

    have so much to say about this topic, but I don’t have time to respond to
    feedback at this time. My apologies in advance.

    watch Cowspiracy – the Sustainability Secret. This movie gets very good ratings.
    Check it out.

    please read my article – “What should we say NO to?”

    May we all find strength to extend compassion to ALL sentient beings on

  • Naomi

    I’m a vegetarian, but I still worry about the footprint of soy, I notice there was no category for ‘meat alternatives’ or tofu. Since soy is usually monocropped, is there any info on how that affects the footprint?

    • Lori Wheeler

      Considering that most of the soybeans grown are feed to livestock most of their footprint belongs to animal agriculture and the beef industry!! Go vegan ????

    • Lindsay Wilson

      I really wouldn’t sweat it. It remains one the lowest carbon forms of protein, only behind things like beans and pulses. And the Okinawas’s live forever.

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  • wideEyedPupil

    These numbers look way low to me. Meat lover only double the footprint of a vegan?! Complete junk. Chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1, soy 2:1, wheat & corn 3:1.

    Number of people whose caloric needs can (notionally) be met on 2.5 acres of land the following foods: beef 1 person, chicken 2, rice 19, potatoes 22.

    Water: 1kg beef 100,000 litres, 1 kg lettuce 440 litres.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      Its a pretty transparent methodology. The numbers are quite solid, from both a bottom up and top down perspective. The issue with it is that the diets are stylized. There are also no land use emissions. (more an issue with Brazilian beef)

      Only one study I know of overcomes this with actual self reported data. Here are its findings (they are actually quite similar):

      ‘The age-and-sex-adjusted mean (95 % confidence interval) GHG emissions in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day (kgCO2e/day) were 7.19 (7.16, 7.22) for high meat-eaters (?>?=?100 g/d), 5.63 (5.61, 5.65) for medium meat-eaters (50-99 g/d), 4.67 (4.65, 4.70) for low meat-eaters (?<?50 g/d), 3.91 (3.88, 3.94) for fish-eaters, 3.81 (3.79, 3.83) for vegetarians and 2.89 (2.83, 2.94) for vegans. In conclusion, dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans.'

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