The need to transform how we eat
Ben Edwards

A great article and I agree with most of it but there are some fallacies in the arguments that do the overall message a disservice.

  1. While it’s true most animals create more CO2 per kg than plants, when you sort that list by calorie instead of weight, you find that the cultivation of many plants contribute more greenhouse gasses (GHGs) per calorie than animals do. And we need calories to survive-not kilograms.
  2. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, agriculture consumes 15% of all the energy contributing to GHG in the food system lifecycle. 15% is a lot but 20% is more and that’s how much food processing consumes. Plant foods products of often NEED more processing than meat before it can be consumed. When you break down which foods contribute the most to this 20% burden, the top 10 are in order, snacks, frozen and canned food; baked goods; soft drinks; alcohol; sugar and sweets; poultry; cereal products; dairy products; beef; and pet food. If you look solely at the top 4, (mostly chips, candy, bread, cookies, pastries, and soft drinks including bottled water) and only those, you’re looking at as big a footprint as all of agriculture combined.
  3. But processing isn’t even the worst culprit. Food waste consumes 1/3 of the energy contributing to GHGs. And according to the Natural Resource Defense Council, people eat 80% of the meat they buy and throw away 20%. But 50% of fruits and vegetables get tossed and 40% of grain products.

I reiterate, I agree with your premise and I believe you offer realistic solutions that go beyond the usual guilt-ridden pablum for people who just like meat. To assist these people in making the best choices, those of us who care about food systems need to emphasize that there are many ways to make an impact and three huge ways are to eat local, be thrifty with what you buy and preserve it as long as possible and, finally, avoid processed food whether animal or plant.

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