Cutting beef from US diet could slash carbon footprints by 48%

cutting beef out
© Paul Vinten

Tulane University research finds that swapping just one serving per day for a more planet friendly alternative, North Americans could cut their carbon footprint by 48%

Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study used real-world data from a survey of what more than 16,000 Americans eat in an average day. The researchers from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Michigan calculated how much of a difference people could make if they swapped one high-impact food item for similar, more sustainable options.

The study examined how the change would impact two factors, water scarcity footprint and the greenhouse gas emissions produced by their daily diet.

American diet and the impact of beef

Beef is the highest impact item in US citizens diet, with around 20% of the participants eating at least one serving in a single day.

The results showed that if they collectively swapped one serving of beef for a more environmentally friendly option like turkey, their diets greenhouse gas emissions fell by an average of 48% and water-use impact fell by 30%.

“People can make a significant difference in their carbon footprint with very simple changes — and the easiest one would be to substitute poultry for beef,” said lead author Diego Rose, a professor of nutrition and food security at Tulane.

If 20% switch from beef, US water-use down by 5.9%

Professor Rose and the team found that if only the 20% of Americans who ate beef in a day switched to something else for one meal a day, that it would reduce the overall carbon footprint of all U.S. diets by 9.6% and reduce water-use impacts by 5.9%.

The study also found that the most water efficient change to make would be asparagus to peas, making this change resulted in a 48% decrease in water usage.

These changes are just small ones that individual can make at home that have been proven to make a significant difference. Although big changes lay within the hands of governments and big businesses around the world – individual changes can still make a difference and are worth trying.


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