Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet would result in a 22-26 per cent cut in the 167 million tons of greenhouse gases associated with UK food, estimates the report, which is published in the Journal of Energy Policy.
Researchers calculated the carbon footprint of 61 foodstuffs and confirmed what has long been known: that meat and cheese has the worst carbon footprint across the board.
According to Professor Nick Hewitt of the Lancaster Environment Centre, 40 million tons of CO2 is “equivalent to a 50 per cent reduction in current exhaust pipe emissions of CO2 from the entire UK passenger car fleet”.
The carbon cost of meat was calculated to be 17kg per kilogram, with cheese only slightly behind on 15kg, cooked meats on 11kg and bacon on 9kg. For comparison’s sake, potatoes have a carbon cost of less than 2kg of carbon dioxide per kilogram produced.
“Our analysis shows that informed dietary choices can make a significant difference to greenhouse gas – reducing food-related emissions by around a quarter – with additional health benefits,” says Professor Hewitt.