Environmental ArticlesDietary Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Meat-Eaters, Fish-Eaters, Vegetarians and Vegans in the UK
An Environmental Article from All-Creatures.org


Humane Research Council (HRC)
October 2014

It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.

Short Description

This UK study calculated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the production (not including cooking) of food consumed by meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. "High" meat diets (at least 100g or 3.5 oz/day) caused more than twice as much GHG as vegan diets, suggesting that reduced meat intake is consistent with an updated definition for a "healthy, sustainable diet." Questionnaires compiled during the 1990s for a large, ongoing health study (EPIC) were the source for the dietary data used for this study, so actual consumption patterns (of meat, for example) may have changed.

Abstract excerpted from original source

The production of animal-based foods is associated with higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than plant-based foods. The objective of this study was to estimate the difference in dietary GHG emissions between self-selected meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. Subjects were participants in the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. The diets of 2,041 vegans, 15,751 vegetarians, 8,123 fish-eaters and 29,589 meat-eaters aged 20–79 were assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire.

Comparable GHG emissions parameters were developed for the underlying food codes using a dataset of GHG emissions for 94 food commodities in the UK, with a weighting for the global warming potential of each component gas. The average GHG emissions associated with a standard 2,000 kcal diet were estimated for all subjects. ANOVA was used to estimate average dietary GHG emissions by diet group adjusted for sex and age.

The age-and-sex-adjusted mean (95 % confidence interval) GHG emissions in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day (kgCO2e/day) were 7.19 (7.16, 7.22) for high meat-eaters (>=100 g/d), 5.63 (5.61, 5.65) for medium meat-eaters (50-99 g/d), 4.67 (4.65, 4.70) for low meat-eaters (<50 g/d), 3.91 (3.88, 3.94) for fish-eaters, 3.81 (3.79, 3.83) for vegetarians and 2.89 (2.83, 2.94) for vegans. In conclusion, dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans.

It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.

Access the complete report here by Peter Scarborough, Paul N. Appleby, Anja Mizdrak, Adam D. M. Briggs, Ruth C. Travis, Kathryn E. Bradbury, Timothy J. Key.

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