What is the impact of what we eat on climate change?
Food production alone is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Knowing the impact of each type of food can help us make decisions about what we eat every day, although of course that should not be the only consideration:
Carbon footprint of different types of food
Eating has a whole process associated with it, from the production to the transportation of said food. In this post you can learn about the life cycle of a food if you want to delve into it.
Red meat (cow, sheep, goat)
We understand by red meat that associated with ruminant animals (cow, sheep, goat). The life of these animals (and therefore their meat) carries with it huge greenhouse gas emissions. The reason for this: the digestive systems of these animals partially digest the organic matter they ingest, releasing abundant methane during digestion (we will not go into details…).
With all this, the meat of this type of animals can carry between 20 and 60 kgCO2 eq/kg of product, with cows specifically being the most emissive.
In this case of a poultry, digestions are more efficient. This means that its emissions are much lower than those of red meat, and if we compare it with those of beef they can be practically 90% lower. Naturally these are averages, which in this case as in the previous one depend on many things such as breed of the animal, type of feed, stablishment regime, local climatology…
In this way, we can consider that the emissions from eating chicken are 6 kgCO2eq /kg of product
In the case of fish, an important part of the emissions will be associated with the human activity required for us to take it. If it is a farmed fish, the operation of this usually requires energy and also food for the fish; if it is a wild fish, most of the emissions will be associated with the fuel of the fishing boat.
With all this, we can consider that the emissions from eating fish are between 3 and 5 kg CO2eq /kg of product, being in general higher than those of farmed fish.
The CO2 emissions of most products of plant origin are much lower than products of animal origin. They are usually mainly due to the change in land use and the activity of the cultivar itself. For example, in the case of rice, significant amounts of methane are emitted during its growth. The fertilizers used also release nitrous oxide, a gas responsible for the greenhouse effect. And farmers use energy for their vehicles and machinery, even more so if the crop is not in season and requires providing energy to a greenhouse, for example.
With this we go from 0.4 kg CO2eq /kg of product in the case of apples, to 1.4 kg CO2eq /kg of product in the case of tomatoes and even up to 4 kg CO2eq /kg of product in the case of rice.
Transportation, retail, and packaging usually have low carbon footprints associated with them (although everything counts), even if the products are not proximity, as long as the transport is not by plane.
Knowing these facts, what can you do to reduce the carbon footprint of your food?
- Reduce your consumption of red meat
- Avoid food waste
- Consume seasonal and locally sourced products
You can see tips and tricks to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet in The Planet App. If you already have it downloaded on the terminal from which you are reading this, you can access it here.