The Natural Resources Defense Council of US recently made a report on the climate damages made by 197 food items based on the amount of CO2 released per kilogram of that food produced. The data were collected from 2005 to 2014 by the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
Beef is the most climate-damaging food in the world where one kilogram of beef releases 26.5kg of CO2 into the air. It is 5 times more damaging than chicken or turkey as the production of beef in the animal agriculture industry already emitted 14.5% of CO2 worldwide. This is because lots of fertilizers and pesticides which require fossil fuels are used in the production of beef. Moreover, an extremely harmful greenhouse gas, which is methane is also produced by the digestive system of cows.
Lamb is also one of the red meat that brings damage to the climate. The production of one kilogram of lamb emits 22.9 kg of CO2 into the air. Meanwhile, the manure and fertilizer used to produce food for feeding such as soy and corn produce nitrous oxide, which is a pollutant that is 298 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
Butter rank as a third place among the most climate-damaging foods, and it is also the food that causes the most damage to the world’s climate among all dairy products due to the energy required to produce it. For instance, production of one kilogram of butter releases 12kg of CO2 in the process of separating raw milk, pasteurizing the cream, cooling it, ripening and churning.
Shellfish goes after butter as the fourth most climates-damaging food. 11.7kg of CO2 is emitted in the production of every kilogram of shellfish. Nonetheless, shellfish is less consumed nowadays thanks to the improving diet of Americans.
One kilogram of cheese averagely produces 9.8kg of CO2 into the air. It is calculated as a median as the number of emissions depends on the types of cheeses. For instance, cheeses that are carried abroad tend to have a higher chance of damaging the climate due to the emissions created by travel.
Asparagus is the only vegetable among the top 10 climate-damaging foods. The production of one-kilogram asparagus releases 8.9kg of CO2 into the air. The increasing emission is because most of America’s asparagus that are transported from South America are opposed to the other products which can be carried from other parts of the US or Mexico.
Pork is the seventh most climates-damaging food where it produces 7.9kg of CO2 emissions. Nevertheless, Americans begin to reduce pork consumption in their diets from 2005 to 2014 which has successfully avoided 271 million tons of climate-damaging pollution.
Veal which is another type of red meat contributes 7.8kg of CO2 emissions per kilogram. Calves are killed at around 20 weeks, which is much earlier than beef that is killed at approximately 18 months. Hence, veal brings less damage to the climate compared to beef.
Chicken & Turkey
The production of chicken and turkey emit an equal amount of CO2, which is around 5kg for each kilogram. Similar to pork, climate pollution caused by food are reduced due to the reduction of both chicken and turkey consumption.
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Prepared by: Pui Leng