Men’s meat diets are responsible for 40% more global warming emissions than women’s, according to a British study.
Research also found that a quarter of food-related emissions came from optional foods and drinks, such as coffee, alcohol, cakes and sweets. Scientists said policies to encourage sustainable diets should focus on plant-based foods, but replacing drinks and cutting back on sugary snacks presented other opportunities.
A second study found in Western countries, vegan and vegetarian diets were about a third cheaper to buy than regular diets, which the researchers said contrasted with the perception that they were the preserve of a privileged middle class.
Food production is the source of 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and previous studies have shown that meat consumption in rich countries must be sharply reduced in order to cope with the climate crisis, in large part. part caused by methane and deforestation associated with livestock. But these studies looked at the average emissions from major food categories.
The new study, published in the journal Plos one, analyzed emissions related to more than 3,200 specific foods and examined the diets of 212 Britons, who recorded their food and drink consumption over three 24-hour periods. He found that animal products were responsible for almost half of the greenhouse gas emissions of average diets: 31% from meat and 14% from dairy. Drinks accounted for 15% of emissions and 8% came from cakes, cookies and confectionery.
Research has also shown that non-vegetarian diets create 59% more emissions than vegetarian diets. Men’s diets had 41% more emissions, largely due to increased meat consumption, but also due to more drinks.
We all want to do our part to help save the planet, said the scientists, led by Holly Rippin of the University of Leeds. Finding out how to change our diet is one way to do it. There are general concepts like reducing our consumption of meat, especially red meat, but our work also shows that big gains can be made from small changes, like cutting out sweets.
Rippin said the research did not assess why men ate more meat. But we can assume that it could be because men generally eat more food than women, she said. We could also assume that men can eat more traditional meat-based diets.
Another recent study found that men’s spending on goods produced 16% more emissions than women, despite the very similar amount of money, mainly due to higher spending on gasoline and diesel for cars.
The scientists’ database also includes 40,000 branded food products, and they said future research could allow people to reduce their food emissions by swapping the brands.
The study analyzing the costs of the different plans was published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health. He compared seven sustainable diets to the current typical diet in 150 countries using World Bank food prices.
It found that in high-income countries, vegan diets were the most affordable, reducing food costs by 21-34% compared to average diets, depending on specific food choices. Vegetarian diets came next, with a cost reduction of 27-31%.
A flexitarian diet, with low amounts of meat and dairy, reduced costs by 14%, but fish-based pescatarian diets actually increased costs by 2%. The study focused on whole foods and did not include highly processed meat substitutes or eating out in restaurants or take out.
We think that the fact that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets can save you a lot of money is going to surprise people, said Marco Springmann of the University of Oxford, who led the second study. When scientists like me advocate for healthy, eco-friendly diets, it is often said that they are sitting in our ivory towers promoting something that is financially out of reach for most people. This study shows that it is quite the opposite. These plans could be better for your bank balance as well as for your health and that of the planet.
A recent WWF poll found that over 70% of Britons believe people should eat food that is better for the environment, but 65% said sustainable options are too expensive.
Current average diets in wealthy countries do not meet nutritional guidelines, with meat consumption exceeding recommended levels. The two new studies confirm previous work that healthy diets are also low-emission diets.
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