A 50-gram (1.8-ounce) serving of red meat is associated with at least 20 times as much greenhouse-gas emitted and 100 times as much land use compared to a 100-gram portion of vegetables, according to a recent study published by scientists at Oxford University and the University of Minnesota. Averaged across all the ecological indicators the authors used, red meat was about 35 times more damaging than a bowl of greens. The same study also looked at the health impact of dietary choices and found that a person who eats an additional 50-gram serving of processed meat (approximately two slices of ham) per day has a 41-percent higher chance of dying in a given year. The foods associated with improved health—including whole grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and olive oil—have among the lowest environmental impacts. In contrast, foods associated with the largest negative environmental impacts—unprocessed and processed red meat—are consistently associated with the largest increases in disease risk. Thus, the study concluded that dietary transitions toward greater consumption of plant-based foods would generally improve environmental sustainability. The scientists believe these findings could help consumers, policy makers, and food companies to better understand the multiple health and environmental implications of food choices.

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