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Carbon Footprint of Foods, Ranked

Australian study reveals which foods (hint: animal products) are most environmentally destructive.


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Research conducted by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology ranked the environmental impact—or “carbon footprint”—of foods consumed daily. The group analyzed the effects of raising and growing food for consumption, and compiled a systematic review of 369 published studies to create a comprehensive hierarchical pyramid of where all items fall. Researchers found that fruit, grains, and vegetables carried the smallest carbon footprints, while animal products such as lamb and beef were identified as the most environmentally problematic. Lead researcher Karli Verghese explained the motives behind the study, stating, “We wanted to help people make informed choices, to empower consumers and people working in the food industry who would like to reduce their environmental impact.” This new research confirms that animal agriculture is an environmentally destructive practice—a topic that has been extensively explored ever since the United Nations published a report in 2009 stating that cows produce more methane gas than all transportation combined.

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