Research from the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that substituting beef with poultry or pork has significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption.
Aside from ethical and health concerns, individuals may opt for a plant-based diet based on environmental reasons. However, if going on a plant-based diet is too big of a leap for now, substitutes seem to work.
First, the researchers ranked foods based on environmental impact. Next, they examined what happens when we substitute one high-impact food for a lower impact one in terms of environmental impact.
Beef production has the highest impact when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and water use.
Additionally, the researchers did not just examine beef, but other substitutions for high-impact food, such as substituting dairy milk for soy milk or replacing almonds with peanuts.
Substituting beef for pork or chicken reduced green house gas emissions by 9.6% and water scarcity footprint by 5.9%.
To address the concern that switching diet compromises on nutrition, the researchers chose food substitutions that “were closely related nutritionally.”
It’s not all or nothing when it comes to eating with the environment and sustainability in mind. For the authors, it starts with knowing the foods with the highest environmental impact—we know that beef has the highest, and making a single substitution has a positive net effect.
A reminder that it takes just a little change from us to care for our planet. Predictive studies like this one provide the future possibilities of making minor changes. Isn’t it motivating?
Keep in mind that these substations are hypothetical and the researchers modeled the potential impact.