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Research proves salads are more harmful to the environment than burgersResearch proves salads are more harmful to the environment than burgers

December 23, 2015

3 Min Read
Research proves salads are more harmful to the environment than burgers

As the Meatless Monday trend continues to gain momentum, thanks to activist propaganda falsely claiming that eating a hamburger is worse than driving a Hummer, it appears the rhetoric is finally being debunked with a new study that proves eating a salad is more harmful to the environment than eating animal proteins like bacon.

Following the new USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University studied these foods and discovered that they are more harmful to the environment because they all have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas emissions per calorie.

READ: 5 ways cattle help the environment

The study was published in Environment Systems and Decisions and measured the changes in energy use, blue water footprint and GHG emissions associated with U.S. food consumption patterns.


"Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon," said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy. "Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

This makes sense from a nutritional standpoint if we think about how many heads of lettuce we would have to consume to equal or even come close to the nutrition derived from a single serving of beef.

According to the study, “Eating the recommended ‘healthier’ foods -- a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood -- increased the environmental impact in all three categories: Energy use went up by 38%, water use by 10% and GHG emissions by 6%.”

What’s more, according to environmental sustainability expert Jude Capper, as reported by the blog Mom at the Meat Counter, “Animal agriculture contributes to 3.1% of the total U.S. carbon footprint. One cow of today produces 131% of the beef that one cow would have produced 30 years ago, and each pound of beef produced requires only 81% of the feed, 86% of the water, and 66% of the land a pound of beef required 30 years ago. One pound of beef today results in 80% of the manure, 80% of the methane, 89% of the nitrous oxide and has 82% of the carbon footprint that a pound of beef had in 1977.”

Read more environmental facts about beef production here.

This research is great news for beef lovers, and the cattle industry could benefit from helping spread the word on this study. Of course, the intention isn’t to bash another food group, but to bring to light how energy-dense and nutrient-rich beef is and how beef producers work hard to produce more while using less. Share this information on social media today and help spread the word.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.


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