Animal Products Cause 83.5% Of Dietary Emissions, Says New Study

One researcher says diet is the key to 'accessible' climate action
Animal products are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study (Photo: The Digital Marketing Collaboration)

A recent study in the US found animal products responsible for 83.5 percent of diet related greenhouse gas emissions - and 20 percent of Americans accountable for almost half overall.

Research results

The study - conducted by University of Michigan and Tulane University, and published in Environmental Research Letters - analyzed the impact of over 300 foods, and the diets of 16,000 Americans.

It revealed that only 20 percent of Americans - those who eat the most animal products - are responsible for 46 percent of food-related emissions overall on an average day.

The foods studied were divided into categories, with the meat, dairy, egg, and fish and seafood groups accounting for 83.5 percent cumulatively - while plant-based foods were responsible for significantly less.

Plant-based options

The categories of fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains, and nuts and seeds accounted for less than three percent of diet-related emissions each.

Legume consumption was found to be the least detrimental - with the food group causing just 0.3 percent of emissions.

‍Plant foods were found to cause less emissions

Individual diets

Diego Rose, of Tulane University, said that while most studies of this kind look at an average national diet, this is the first in the US to rely instead on individual reports of daily consumption.

This allowed for a comparison of the least detrimental diets, of those in a group the researched called the 'first quintile', to the most negatively impactful eaters, the 'fifth quintile'.

Potential for impact

The study demonstrates that a change in diet - especially for the top contributors - could have a tremendous impact on food-related emissions, overall.

University of Michigan researcher, Martin Heller said: "Reducing the impact of our diets - by eating fewer calories and less animal-based foods - could achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

"It's climate action that is accessible to everyone, because we all decide on a daily basis what we eat."

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PBN Contributor:

Emily Court is a passionate ethical vegan from Eastern Canada. She is a Challenge 22 Mentor, Digital Writer, and experienced animal advocate driven by issues of animal liberation and social justice. She studied at Dalhousie University, where her thesis highlighted intercultural and gender relations. She is an established public speaker, writer, and world traveller with a drive to provide a voice to those who might not otherwise have one. You can follow her on Instagram @emily.j.court or on Twitter @_EmilyJCourt_.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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