Mark McCafferty

The carbon footprint of meat: how meat-lovers can do their bit

3 min Read
Beef on brown paper

The carbon footprint of meat has become a hot topic. The suggestion being that meat is bad and we should be giving it up in the fight against climate change. While it’s true the carbon footprint of meat is higher, there is a middle ground and meat-lovers can absolutely do their bit. So don’t fret if you don’t want to go as far as vegetarian or vegan, there is still plenty you can do.

Let’s look at some numbers for meat, and how they compare to other foods…

Carbon footprints (CO2e) for local foods, per kg

Beef 24.8
Lamb 19.6
Pork 9.9
Chicken 4.3
Farmed trout 4.7
Cheese 12.2
Potatoes 1
Tomatoes (in season) 3.3
CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, is the measure of all greenhouse gas emissions rolled into one

The data is pretty clear when comparing local meat and veg. Beef is particularly high due to the energy required to raise cows, and made worse by their methane burps as they chew the cud (this gas is 25 times more potent than CO2).  So reducing the amount of beef and other meats in your diet makes a difference.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing with meat

The good news is that meat-lovers don’t have to give up meat to do their bit. It’s about making small changes to your usual diet. Sensible reductions of meat in the average UK diet could cut your food carbon footprint by up to 25%.

For example, if you went plant-based for just two lunches and two dinners a week, you could save approximately 280 kg CO2e over a year. That’s the equivalent of a return flight from Glasgow to London!

The trend is already happening with ‘flexitarian’ diets on the rise in the UK. And with this trend comes a host of new veggie recipes and meat-free alternatives to try.  

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