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19 Reasons Why You Might Want to Stop Buying Supermarket Meat


There’s a lot more to the meat you’re buying at the supermarket than meets the eye

19 Reasons Why You Might Want to Stop Buying Supermarket Meat

If you’re like most Americans, you most likely buy your meat at the supermarket. Be it raw chicken and steaks from the butcher case or cold cuts from the deli counter, we tend to not give much thought to the meat we buy beyond whether it’s fresh and how much it costs. But you might want to think twice before buying your next Styrofoam-and-cellophane-wrapped chicken breast, because what we’re about to tell you may have you buying all your meat at the organic butcher shop from now on.

The Deli Slicer Is One of the Dirtiest Places in the Supermarket

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The deli slicer, and the cold cuts that it slices, are at serious risk of contamination. If the blade isn’t regularly cleaned, it can transfer bacteria (including listeria) to everything it touches. A joint team of researchers from the USDA, FDA, and CDC sampled deli meats at the point of purchase, and three percent tested positive for listeria. Thankfully, however, Listeria rates have declined more than 80 percent over the last decade and there has not been a recall due to listeria illnesses in ready to eat meat products in more than a decade.

The Packages of Raw Meat Can Be E. coli Farms

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Raw meat can harbor E. coli, listeria, and plenty of other nasty pathogens. Plastic wrap isn’t the best defense against the outside world. Ever picked up a package of raw chicken only to have it leak all over the other packages? That right there is how people get sick. While E. coli, listeria, and salmonella infection rates have decreased in recent years, it's always important to wash your hands after touching meat packages and make sure to cook it thoroughly.

The Fish May Be Mislabeled

The UDSA is actually pretty lax about testing meat to make sure it is what it says it is on the label, primarily because nobody is butchering horses in the U.S. and it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between, say, beef and pork. Fish, on the other hand, is a different story. A recent study found that up to a third of all fish currently on the market is mislabeled, with expensive fish like tuna being replaced by others that look similar. While most of the counterfeit fish is safe to eat, some of it — like snake mackerel — can cause serious gastric issues.

Expiration Dates on Meat Packaging Are Generally Meaningless

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We hate to break it to you, but expiration dates really don’t mean much. Sure, Cheez-Its will go stale and milk will go bad a certain number of weeks after packaging, but supermarket meat departments, where they do their own labeling, are generally left up to their own devices (30 states don’t regulate date labeling at all). This means that if an item is set to expire and it still looks okay, supermarkets are allowed to put a new label on, pushing the expiration date back by days or even more than a week. We suggest checking to see when the food first hit the shelf, if possible, or buying meat from a trusted butcher.

Meat in the Circulars Is Most Likely Not Actually on Sale

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Those big newspaper inserts aren’t actually intended to save you money. They’re supposed to make you buy stuff you don’t need just because you think they’re on sale. Make sure you double check every coupon you’re going to use; in some cases the price advertised is exactly the same as the non-coupon price!

It’s Full of Antibiotics

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Because the stressful and dirty conditions at factory farms can wreak havoc on the animals’ immune systems, livestock are treated with antibiotics both as preventative measures and for treatment of sick animals. Antibiotics can be bought by the pound at any farm store, while doctors’ prescriptions are needed when a human needs them. According to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it’s been estimated that livestock consumed more than 36,000 tons of antibiotics in 2010. Thankfully, Purdue went antibiotic-free in 2014, and medically-important antibiotics will only be available under veterinary prescription as of December 2016.

Almost Half Contains Staph Bacteria

According to a 2011 study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers have found that almost half of all raw meat in American supermarkets contains staph infection bacteria, including MRSA, which is potentially lethal. Turkey, pork, and chicken products (in that order) were most likely to harbor staph.

Some Is “Mechanically Tenderized,” Which Can Be Dangerous

Certain tough cuts of meat are “mechanically tenderized” before they hit shelves to make them appear more tender — by being poked with hundreds of tiny needles to help break up the muscle fibers (it’s usually impossible to see with naked eyes when this has taken place). What’s wrong with making meat more tender, you may ask? While the inside of meat is sterile, dangerous (occasionally antibiotic-resistant) bacteria can thrive on its surface. Those needles drive the bacteria deep into the interior of the meat, contaminating the whole cut. Risk assessments by the USDA found no major difference in the safety of mechanically-tenderized meat from intact beef, but the products that have been mechanically tenderized will soon be labeled.

Supermarket Chickens are Pumped with Potentially Dangerous Drugs

In 2012, Johns Hopkins University studied the feathers of imported chickens to see what was in their system before slaughter. Painkillers, antidepressants, banned antibiotics, and caffeine were found in the samples. Some chickens were even fed Prozac; stress can slow their growth. And as for the caffeine? Chickens grow faster when they’re awake. The National Chicken Council took issue with these findings (especially the fact that only feathers were tested); you can find their rebuttal here.

A Surprising Chemical Is Used to Make Meat Look Pink

When fresh meat has been sitting in a refrigerator for a couple days, it oxidizes and starts to turn a shade of grayish-brown, which doesn’t look particularly appetizing, especially when shoppers are looking for shelves of bright red meat. In order to avoid having to throw away the meat, as much as 70 percent of all the raw meat sold in supermarkets is treated with a suspiring chemical: carbon monoxide. The gas interacts with the myoglobin in the meat, locking in the bright red color. Called “modified atmosphere packaging” by the factory farm industry, carbon monoxide has been shown to keep meat looking artificially fresh for up to a full year. The North American Meat Institute sheds more light on this practice here.

The Vast Majority of Ground Turkey Is Contaminated with Bacteria

Consumer Reports conducted a lab analysis of 257 samples of ground turkey in 2013, and found that nearly 70 percent of all samples contained enterococcus and 60 percent contained E. coli, both forms of fecal bacteria. Three samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant MRSA. You can read the North American Meat Institute's response here.

If it Smells or If It’s Slimy, Throw it Away

If you open up a package of raw meat and it smells funky, is slimy, and/or feels a little bit mushy, throw it out or take it back to the supermarket for a refund. While the chances of it actually making you sick aren’t extremely high (spoilage bacteria generally doesn’t make people sick; it’s the pathogenic bacteria from improper storage that does), if it does make you sick you can end up in the hospital. It’s better to be safe than sorry; don’t take the risk — throw it away.

Ground Beef Can Contain Meat From Hundreds of Cows

Hamburgers are the most ubiquitous form of processed meat. They are almost always a hodgepodge of many, many animals, sometimes in the hundreds (McDonald’s has admitted that its “minced beef can be made up of the meat from more than 100 cattle”). If you’re going to buy ground beef, you should ask your butcher to grind it for you. Keep in mind, however, that this practice doesn't have any impact on food safety, and some compare it to applesauce containing hundreds of apples. It's still an unpleasant thought, however.

Ground Beef Is Usually From Retired Dairy or Breeding Cows

Most of the beef we eat comes from cows (either steers or cows that are raised for meat rather than milk) that are between two and three years old. Young beef tends to be more tender and marbled, and is used almost exclusively for steaks. Because it doesn’t matter whether ground beef is tender or marbled, most supermarket ground beef is made from retired dairy or breeding cows, which are generally slaughtered at between six and 8 years of age, along with trimmings left over after younger cows are butchered.

You Should Look for a USDA Shield on the Packaging

There are eight grades of meat: prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. The more marbling in the meat, the better the grade. Choice and select are the grades most commonly found in supermarkets, but in order to be graded, the meat needs to be inspected by the USDA. Look for the USDA shield, and you’ll know that it’s been inspected.

Contaminated Chicken and Turkey Sickens 200,000 Americans Yearly with Salmonella

While many countries have protections against salmonella in place at chicken farms and hatcheries, there are no such protections in the U.S., where testing is only carried out on a limited basis at the slaughterhouse (7.5 percent of all whole chickens tested are allowed to be contaminated with salmonella). Here, it’s simply accepted that chicken will have potentially fatal bacteria on it; according to federal data, about 25 percent of raw chicken pieces contain salmonella. Because the requirements are so lax, about 200,000 Americans are sickened with salmonella from poultry annually. Thankfully, the USDA has ramped up its testing for salmonella on poultry.

A New Law Makes It Legal for Supermarket Meat to Not Be Labeled with the Country of Origin

Effective this month, retailers and producers are no longer required to identify where an animal was raised, slaughtered, or processed. Canada and Mexico, two important trade partners, argued that laws mandating country of origin labeling were discouraging Americans from buying meat that comes from outside the U.S., and Congress caved to them, much to the chagrin of those who support transparency in the food industry. Advocates claim this this act has no bearing on food seafry, however; you can find more details here.

Thanksgiving Turkeys Could Have Been Slaughtered Months Ago

That frozen thanksgiving turkey in the supermarket could easily have been slaughtered several months ahead of time and blast-frozen to keep it fresh. If you’re looking for a fresh Thanksgiving turkey, we suggest you track down a local farmer or butcher that sells pasture-raised turkeys, or purchase yours from Heritage Foods USA, which sources its meat from small family farmers.

Supermarket-Bound Turkeys May Suffer More Than Any Other Animal

A sustainable chicken farmer named Frank Reese testified on Capitol Hill a few years ago, when he memorably stated that “no animal on earth suffers more than the industrial turkey.” They’re bred to grow 20 to 40 pounds in just 12 to 19 weeks, and usually suffer from broken bones, breathing problems, and congestive heart failure because they’re forced to grow so unnaturally fast. It's impossible to know for sure what goes on inside every turkey farm; You can check out both PETA's and the North America' Meat Institute's takes and decide for yourself (Warning: PETA's article contains graphic imagery).


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local

As I have shown before, food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There is rightly a growing awareness that our diet and food choices have a significant impact on our carbon 𠆏ootprint’. What can you do to really reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunches, and dinner?

�ting local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively –ꂯter all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice.

Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.

GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.

Where do the emissions from our food come from?

In the visualization we see GHG emissions from 29 different food products – from beef at the top to nuts at the bottom.

For each product you can see from which stage in the supply chain its emissions originate. This extends from land use changes on the left, through to transport and packaging on the right.

This is data from the largest meta-analysis of global food systems to date, published in Science by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018).

In this study, the authors looked at data across more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. 2

In this comparison we look at the total GHG emissions per kilogram of food product. CO2 is the most important GHG, but not the only one – agriculture is a large source of the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide. To capture all GHG emissions from food production researchers therefore express them in kilograms of �rbon dioxide equivalents’. This metric takes account not just CO2 but all greenhouse gases. 3

The most important insight from this study: there are massive differences in the GHG emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.

Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods – and particularly the largest emitters – most GHG emissions result from land use change (shown in green), and from processes at the farm stage (brown). Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers – both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest GHG emitters. In beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%.

Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food left the farm – processing, transport, retail and packaging – mostly account for a small share of emissions.

This data shows that this is the case when we look at individual food products. But studies also shows that this holds true for actual diets here we show the results of a study which looked at the footprint of diets across the EU. Food transport was responsible for only 6% of emissions, whilst dairy, meat and eggs accounted for 83%. 4


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