The carbon footprint of food is the amount of carbon dioxide (equivalent) that is emitted during growing/rearing, farming, processing, storing, transportation retail, and cooking of the food.
Research has shown that agriculture is responsible for as much as 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that changing our diets to reduce the carbon footprint will be essential if we are to meet the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 2°C (Willett et al. 2019).
Making smart food choices to reduce our food carbon footprint is a practical step that everyone can take to help combat climate change. The table below contains the carbon footprint of some common foods. Data is from the Environmental Working Group (2011) Meat Eater’s Guide.
|Food||kg CO2 equivalent per kg|
You can see from this data that meat, cheese and eggs have the highest carbon footprint, while vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts have much lower carbon footprints. Choosing pork over beef will halve the carbon from the meal’s protein source, and swapping lamb for chicken is going to reduce the carbon by more than five times!
So you see, changing your diet towards a mainly vegetarian diet, cutting out or greatly reducing the more carbon-intensive meats (beef and lamb) can have a large impact on your personal carbon footprint.
Environmental Working Group, 2011. Meat Eater’s Guide. Retrieved 01/26/2020 from: http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/meateaters/pdf/methodology_ewg_meat_eaters_guide_to_health_and_climate_2011.pdf
Willett, W. et al. (2019). Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet, Volume 393, Issue 10170, 447 – 492. Retrieved 01/26/2020 from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31788-4/fulltext