Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Reason Not to Eat Beef

Assuming of course you care about the environment and are worried about global warming. If you don't and you're not, this post doesn't apply to you.

There's a new word being bandied about to go alongside words like carnivore or vegetarian and that word is locavore and it refers to individuals who strive to eat locally with their predominant rationale being that it'll help the planet to not truck tomatoes in from Mexico or garlic in from Chile.

Strict locavores may limit their dietary choices to foods that come from within a 50 mile radius of where they live. The word (and presumably the practice) has become so trendy as to have been voted the 2007 word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Well a study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says that while indeed eating local does reduce greenhouse emissions, if you're a local carnivore who likes beef, you're probably not helping much.

The researchers estimated that shifting to an entirely local diet would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of driving a hypothetical 1,600km (1,000 miles) less per year.

They also estimated that switching one day's beef meal to anything other than beef would likely have the same impact.


Because transportation of food apparently only contributes 4% to total food supply greenhouse gas emissions, while production of food contributes 83%.

And what food contributes the most?

Beef. Delicious, bad for you, cancer-inducing, beef. On average beef production contributes 2.5 times more greenhouse gas emissions than those from emitted during the production of chicken or fish.

What's the second worst?


Really want to help the environment?

Become a vegetarian - the study authors estimate that doing so would be the equivalent of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a hypothetical 12,800 transport kilometres (8,000 miles) per year and this is even if you're not a locavore.

Food for thought?

[Hat tip to loyal blog reader and eagle-eyed Rob]