The Environmental Working Group just released a life-cycle analysis of the impact of eating different foods. Read the report, but one of the main take-home messages (in their words) is:
"Lamb, beef, cheese, pork and farmed salmon generate the most greenhouse gases. With the exception of salmon, they also tend to have the worst environmental impacts, because producing them requires the most resources – mainly chemical fertilizer, feed, fuel, pesticides and water – and pound for pound, they generate more polluting manure. On the health front, the scientific evidence is increasingly clear that eating too much of these greenhouse gas-intensive meats boosts exposure to toxins and increases the risk of a wide variety of serious health problems, including heart disease, certain cancers, obesity and, in some studies, diabetes.
Meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed are generally the least environmentally damaging (although a few studies of the impact on climate show mixed results for grass-fed versus confined-feedlot meat) (Pelletier 2010, Gurian-Sherman 2011). Overall, these products are the least harmful, most ethical choices. In some cases, grass-fed and pasture-raised products have also been shown to be more nutritious and carry less risk of bacterial contamination.
Greenhouse gas emissions vary depending on the quantity of chemical fertilizers, fuel and other “production inputs” used, differences in soil conditions and production systems and the extent to which best practices (cover cropping, intensive grazing, manure management, etc.) are implemented along the entire supply chain. While best management practices can demonstrably reduce overall emissions and environmental harm, the most effective and efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts from livestock is simply to eat, waste and produce less meat and dairy."
The cheese message was a new one for me!
In a line: eat less meat and cheese and buy them carefully when you do...lessons that Eating our way to civility: a dinner party guide supports!