The Environmental Impact of Animal and Plant Protein Sources

| 2/29/2012 2:53:47 PM

We’ve all heard that eating less meat is a great way to reduce our environmental impact by cutting carbon emissions. On average, it takes more than 11 times as much energy to produce one calorie of animal protein as it does to create one calorie of plant protein. The meat and dairy industries require large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fuel, animal feed and water to operate, and in return they produce large amounts of greenhouse gases and toxic manure that pollutes our waterways. Worldwide meat consumption has more than doubled in the past 60 years, with global meat production reaching 600 billion pounds in the last few years.

Dairy and meat production take a heavy toll on the environment, but not all protein sources are created equally. For its 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide, the Environmental Working Group conducted lifecycle assessments on 20 popular types of protein from meat, dairy and vegetable sources and found that different sources and different production systems have varying environmental impacts.    

Lamb, beef, cheese, pork and salmon topped the list for highest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions produced. On the opposite end of the scale, plant-based sources such as lentils, tomatoes and beans, and dairy-based sources such as yogurt and milk created the fewest amount of emissions.

protein sources chart 
Image Courtesy The Environmental Working Group 

It’s no surprise that meat-based protein sources created the most greenhouse gas emissions as ruminant animals such as sheep and cows create methane through their digestive systems. While lamb and beef generate about equal amounts of methane, lamb produces less edible meat relative to the animal’s weight, earning it the top spot on the EWG’s list. Thankfully, lamb constitutes just one percent of all meat consumed by Americans. Unfortunately, conventionally farmed beef, which generates the second highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, makes up 30 percent of all meat consumed by Americans. Vegetarians who eat lots of cheese should note that cheese comes in third on the list of biggest emissions producers. Cheese ranks so high because it takes about 10 pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheese.

For a more in-depth look at the health, climate and environmental impact of various protein sources, check out the EWG’s 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide.

5/31/2014 8:35:00 AM

Animal and plant both are two parts of our Eco system. There should be a balance in every section of the living organism. Like that if you are keeping any pet animal in home you need to take proper care of them. If you don't have any ideas how to take care of the animals then better to visit any animal hospital like and can take the ideas from them.

Subscribe today and save 58%

Get the latest on Healthy Living and Natural Beauty!

Mother Earth LivingRedefine beauty and embrace holistic living with Mother Earth Living by your side. Each issue  provides you with easy, hands-on ways to connect your life with the natural world -- from eating seasonally to culinary and medicinal uses of herbs; from aromatherapy and DIY cosmetics to yoga and beyond. Start your journey to holistic living today and you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter