Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor at The Guardian, discusses how the impact of reducing meat and dairy products in our diet is the single biggest way in which to reduce your environmental impact on the planet according to a study published in the journal Science.
The research looks at around 40,000 farms across 119 countries, covering 40 food products, assessing the impact of agriculture on land use, climate, water, and environment.
The report notes that:
‘The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.’
The study highlights significant differences in how the same food is produced in different places, and that the lowest impact beef is responsible for six times more emissions and 36 times more land use than plant products.
One conclusion made by the report is that product labels which highlight environmental impact would be a good start in shifting global diet preferences, but that wider policy and legislation changes may be necessary to impact further.