As the world population continues to grow and demand for food increases, so does the carbon footprint of our diet. Food production is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). In fact, according to Our World In Data, food production is responsible for approximately 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
It's important to understand the impact of our food choices on the environment and the role we can play in reducing our personal carbon footprint. By making more informed decisions about what we eat, we can help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Meat Consumption and CO2 Emissions
One of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from food production is meat consumption. The production of red meat, in particular, is associated with high levels of CO2 emissions due to the large amounts of feed, water, and energy required to raise livestock. Let’s check how much the greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of each meat type, according to Our World in Data.
1 kg of beef equals 100 kg of CO2.
1 kg of farmed fish equals 13.69 kg of CO2.
1 kg of pork equals 12.31 kg of CO2.
1 kg of poultry meat equals 9.87 kg of CO2.
In addition, the digestive systems of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations), animal based food is responsible for 57% of the global GHG emissions from the production of food.
Dairy Consumption and CO2 Emissions
The production of milk and cheese requires large amounts of feed, water, and energy. The digestion of cows and other ruminants produces methane.
But, it's important to note that not all dairy production has the same impact on the environment. For example, cheese production generally has a higher carbon footprint than milk production due to the additional energy required to process and package the cheese. According to Our World In Data, dairy milk has 3.15 kg of CO2 per liter. So imagine the cheese production!
Plant based milks are seen as a better alternative to dairy milk but they have impacts on the environment too. If you want to learn more about coconut milk, almond milk and more, check our blog post about the impacts of plant based milks.
Processed Food Consumption and CO2 Emissions
Processed foods, such as snack foods, frozen meals, and sugary drinks, also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The production, processing, and transportation of these foods requires large amounts of energy and resources.
In addition, many processed foods contain ingredients that are associated with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats, have a much higher carbon footprint than fresh meats due to the additional processing required.
Transport, Packaging and Retail and CO2 Emissions
Producing food involves various activities like food processing, transportation, packaging, and retailing that require significant amounts of energy and resources. While some people believe that consuming locally grown food is the solution to reducing carbon emissions, it is important to note that according to Our World In Data, transportation emissions constitute only a small portion of 6% of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production globally. Other factors such as food processing, packaging, and retailing also contribute significantly to the overall carbon footprint of food. As individuals, we have the power to make a difference in our food system and reduce our personal carbon footprint. By making small changes to our diets and food habits, we can help mitigate the effects of climate change and support a more sustainable future.