Fighting global warming — at the dinner table

May 5, 2008
Fighting global warming — at the dinner table
Scientists report that eating chicken, vegetables or fish, such as the swordfish above, instead of red meat for just one meal per week does more to help fight climate change than "buying local." Credit: Courtesy of wikimedia commons

Substituting chicken, fish, or vegetables for red meat just once a week can help combat climate change — even more dramatically than buying locally sourced food, according to scientists in Pennsylvania who studied the environmental impacts of food production and distribution in the United States. The study is scheduled for the May 15 issue of ACS’s bi-weekly journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In the study, Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews explain that environmental advocates and retailers have urged customers to purchase goods from local sources to minimize environmental impacts. Despite this emphasis on “buying local,” the researchers point out that few studies in the U. S. have compared greenhouse gas emissions from food production to those of transportation.

Weber and Matthews found that the production phase dominates the average U.S. household’s greenhouse-gas burden — contributing 83 percent of them — whereas transportation accounts for only 11 percent. Red meat, according to the report, is almost 150 percent more greenhouse-gas-intensive than chicken or fish.

“Thus, we suggest that dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than ‘buying local,’” the paper says. “Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more greenhouse-gas reduction than buying all locally sourced food.”

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: From icky bugs to good grubs: Americans show interest in alternative, sustainable protein

Related Stories

Eat less meat, save the planet

August 12, 2015

To conserve the planet's ecosystems and their diverse plant and animal species, human populations should consume less meat, according to Florida International University researchers.

Developing new methods to detect nanoparticles in food

July 8, 2015

The production and characterisation of reference materials to detect silver nanoparticles in meat is feasible, a recent experiment has found. Using methods developed through the NANOLYSE project, two concentrations of silver ...

Researchers calculate 'hidden' emissions in traded meat

November 13, 2014

An international team of researchers has, for the first time, estimated the amount of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) that countries release into the atmosphere when producing meat from livestock, and assigned the emissions ...

Recommended for you

Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

October 1, 2015

Berkeley geologists have uncovered compelling evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes in India for hundreds of thousands of years, and that together these planet-wide ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.9 / 5 (7) May 05, 2008
One time a week? Hmmmmm ........ what amount of global impact would take place? Specifics please. Does this assume the red meat is produced using more energy, or PETA just feels this is a good path away from meat eating all together?? Talk about non-science.

Everyone ........ BBQ steaks at my house tonight. 8pm sharp. Don't miss it.
2.6 / 5 (5) May 06, 2008
I have a theory:-starvation leads to death in ?% of cases.
Can I have my grant now?
3 / 5 (6) May 06, 2008
PhysOrg: I can't believe you would print this drivel.
2.6 / 5 (5) May 06, 2008
Anything linking to global warming makes money..... talking about getting grants... can I get a grant to study why global warming will cause 100 percent of all people alive today to be dead in 120 years.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.