According to a first-ever national study on the United States eating habits and carbon footprints, choosing the carbon-light chicken over carbon-rich beef will reduce your dietary carbon footprint to nearly half.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey questioned over 16,000 participants about their food intake in the previous 24 hours. The investigators then calculated the carbon emission of what the participants ate. They estimated what the carbon footprint would be if they have chosen chicken over beef.
Lead study author Diego Rose said, “We knew eating chicken instead of beef would lower carbon emissions related to diet but it was much lower than expected.”
The study found that a simpler substitution could lead to a bigger reduction in an individual’s dietary carbon footprint, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from energy, fertilizer, and land use in growing food. The author explained it does not mean you have to totally give up animal products to improve your carbon footprint.
Rose said, “Climate change is such a dramatic problem that all sectors of society need to be involved.”
Plant-based foods have a lesser carbon footprint than animal-based foods. For instance, beef production needs 20 times the land and emits 20 times the emissions; whereas, growing beans needs over 10 times more resources than producing chicken. Walter Willett of the EAT-Lancet Commission and professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said, “A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”