The Environmental Working Group recently released a guide which ranks proteins based on their environmental impact. It's not shocking that lentils top the list of the most environmentally-friendly foods you can eat, but we were surprised by two of the three foods that have the biggest affect on climate change.We expected beef to be one of the worst offenders, and it is indeed ranked number two among the three foods with the biggest carbon footprint. Cheese, number three, was unexpected, but it is the number one that came as the biggest surprise: lamb! Looking at the fertilizer used to grow the animal's food, the energy needed to process the meat, and the fuel burned to transport it, lamb has a carbon footprint that is 50 percent higher than beef.
This study looked only at conventionally-raised meat, fed non-organic grain and raised in confined feeding operations, so these results don't necessarily apply to pasture-raised, grass-fed animals. Still, this well-made guide is a good reminder that small changes, like skipping meat and cheese once a week, can have a big impact; for a family of four, it's the equivalent of not driving for five weeks.
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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