The 10 Worst Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The 10 Worst Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

It’s well known that greenhouse gas emissions are bad for the planet. They contribute to global warming which in turn feeds the ongoing climate and ecological crisis. This has led to many wanting to rightly play their own part in limiting their own carbon footprints. But how and where can people start when looking to do this. One area to consider is the food you eat. That’s why we’ve put together this short guide on the 10 worst foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Number 10: Poultry Meat – 6.10kg

Coming in at number 10 is poultry meat. This includes chicken, turkey, geese and ducks. In total, poultry meats produce 6.10kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of food. Over half of this comes from land use change (2.50kg) and animal feed (1.80kg). While they are 10th on this list, many have questioned whether eating poultry is worse than eating beef. Either way, it’s clear that poultry meat produces a lot of carbon emissions per kilogram of food.

Image of four birds to show poultry as the 10th worst food to eat for greenhouse gas emissions

Number 9: Pig Meat – 7.20kg

At number 9 is pig meat (sorry sausage and bacon lovers!). Pig meat produces 7.20kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of meat produced across the supply chain. A large part of this comes from animal feed (2.90kg). It’s not all bad news though. A recent study has shown that a change in pig feed has led to a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions across UK pig farms.

Number 8: Palm Oil – 7.60kg

Next is one you all know – palm oil. Palm oil produces 7.60kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. The majority of this occurs through land use change (3.10kg) and through plantation farming (2.10kg). We’re all aware of the impacts of palm oil which is why it’s important to check products for its inclusion. Luckily, there are now great apps that can help track palm oil in products for you!

Number 7: Shrimps – 12.00kg

Seafood lovers may wish to turn away now. That’s because shrimps come in at number 7. They produce a huge 12.00kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. Of this, over two-thirds occurs through the farming phase (8.40kg). The fact that shrimp farms are usually located in former mangrove areas makes this worse as reported in this academic study aptly titled “The jumbo carbon footprint of a shrimp: carbon losses from mangrove deforestation“.

Number 6: Coffee – 17.00kg

At number 6 is something that most people start there day with – coffee. Unfortunately, coffee produces a whopping 17.00kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. That’s a lot for your morning cup of joe! Many have been asking “How green is your coffee?” for a while and it turns out not very. Recent analysis by UCL has looked even closer at this. They estimate that one espresso has a carbon footprint of 0.28kg, however, if it’s produced sustainably this could be as low as 0.06kg. Not all bad news then!

Number 5: Dark Chocolate – 19.00kg

Breaking into the top 5 is dark chocolate. 19.00kg of greenhouse gas emissions are produced for each kilogram of dark chocolate. Over three-quarters of this occurs through land use change (14.30kg). You may be surprised but the UK chocolate industry produces over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. It may be a good question to ask “How much rainforest is in that chocolate bar?” the next time you feel peckish.

Image of a dark chocolate bar to signify dark chocolate being number 5 on the list of the 10 worst foods to each for greenhouse gas emissions.

Number 4: Beef (Dairy) – 21.10kg

The dairy produced from cows comes in at number 4. This produces 21.10kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. The majority of this comes from farming (15.70kg). This is why there are already a number of readily available alternatives to milk dairy such as oat, rice, soy and almond. Be careful though, each variety produces its own amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Number 3: Cheese – 21.20kg

Closely linked to the milk dairy is cheese which is the 3rd worst producer of greenhouse gas emissions. It produces 21.20kg emissions per kilogram produced. However, it does not mean you need to cut out cheese completely. There are plenty of alternatives and it’s been proven that soft cheeses and non-dairy cheeses are better for the environment.

Number 2: Lamb & Mutton – 24.50kg

Lamb and mutton are the second worse produces of greenhouse gas emissions. They produce 24.50kg of emissions per each kilogram produced. Most of this comes from farming (19.50kg) which is of no surprise. While lamb lovers may be breathing a sigh of relief that it’s not the worst this point is up for contention. Some studies have found that lamb actually has the great impact on carbon emissions.

Number 1: Beef (Meat) – 59.60kg

At number 1 is beef meat. It produces a huge 59.60kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of meat produced. In fact, the most intensive part of the supply chain, farming, produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other food on the list (39.40kg). If you are looking to make a big reduction in your own carbon footprint ditching beef could be the most impactful change you could make. However, lots is being done to lower the carbon footprint of the beef industry so hopefully it can become sustainable in the near future.

Image of 3 cows in a field to show

Analysing the 10 Worst Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

There are some important things to notice about the 10 worst foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions. First of all, it’s important to highlight that this list has been compiled from information provided by The data comes from an academic study entitled “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through produces and consumers” by J Poore and T Nemecek. The study used a global median based on a large meta-analysis of food production conducted in 2018. Therefore, other websites may share different figures if they have used different calculations.

On the list itself, it’s interesting to note that only two of the top 10 items are considered vegan (coffee and palm oil). This highlights the higher impact that animal-based products have on greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also interesting to note that 4 of the top 10 foods for greenhouse gas emissions are types of meat.

However, this article is not intended to tell you, the reader, what to eat. It is merely there to share information on the types of food that have higher greenhouse gas emissions. It is still down to the individual to choose what to eat. That being said, we hope those who are looking to lower their own carbon footprint can use this information to make changes that help achieve this.

Table showing the 10 worst foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions

Final Remarks about the 10 Worst Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

So there we have it, the 10 worst foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions. We were certainly surprised by some of the foods included (we’re looking at you dark chocolate!) but not others (hello, beef!).

Are you surprised by anything that’s been included? Or, are you more surprised by the order or something that’s missing? If so, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to know your thoughts.

Choosing different foods to eat with lower greenhouse gas emissions is just one way you can lower your individual carbon footprint. For example, learning how to limit your food waste can make a huge difference too.

Want to know what foods are good for the planet? Keep an eye out for an upcoming article looking at the 10 best foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions!

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