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Meat, Dairy, Environmentalists and Carbon Footprint

Bringing down the temperature of thermostat by two degrees, adjusting the temperature of the water heater by 20 degrees, effectively using the dishwasher etc. are a few of the several tips that environmentalists around the world provide us with in order to bring down our carbon footprint. Well, most of the above mentioned tips are related to domestic appliances but, what do environmentalists have to say about the food that you eat and the amount of carbon footprint being left behind due to what we are consuming.

Wondering how environmentalists but not nutritionists are having a say about the food you eat? Let us see why environmentalists are stepping in?

Meat and Carbon Footprint

Because of a cheese burger that you order for lunch, you are nearly releasing 1340 grams of carbon dioxide into the air – as claimed by the energy expert Jamais Cascio. Just can’t see the connection between you ordering a burger and your carbon footprint, can you?

Not to worry, the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Working Group have come up with a simplified handbook that would explain how your food and greenhouse effect are connected. The handbook titled ‘Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health’ is going to explain both the carbon footprint left by the food you order and the health effects caused by your choice of food.

An interesting tidbit from the handbook – “if a family of four were to skip steak for one day in a week for 12 months, it is equivalent to keeping your car off road for 3 months”.

According to the Environmental Working Group handbook, cooking beef can produce twice as much carbon when compared to cooking pork, quadrupled amount when compared to cooking chicken, 13 times more when compared to vegetable proteins like tofu, beans etc. The irony is that, of the total amount of meat cooked, nearly 20 percent goes as wastage. This ultimately means that we are leaving behind a trail of carbon which could have been avoided if only the meat was cooked in the right amount.

Dairy and Carbon Footprint

The US Department of Agriculture conducted a study on a particular commercial dairy in southern Idaho. This dairy consists of 10,000 cows, a maternity and a hospital barn, a compost yard and waste water storage pond (both stretching for 25 acres) and two milking parlors. Can you imagine the amount of greenhouse gases that this particular dairy would release? Let me answer that for you-

  • 33,092 pounds of methane
  • 3,575 pounds of ammonia
  • 409 pounds of nitrous oxide

All the above mentioned amounts are just released in one single day. Imagine what would that account to in one year and there are several thousand commercial dairies across the US. The ultimate carbon footprint would be nothing but mammoth.

The above statistics are not to put one off from consuming meat and dairy products (your nutritionist wouldn’t spare you then even if the environmentalist does). It is not feasible asking everyone to switch to vegetarian all of a sudden and no one is actually asking you to do so. You can help the environment by wasting less which would cooking in the right amounts. Eating green can also make the environment go green, but it’s not entirely practical.

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