Vegetarian? No thanks! When being omnivore helps the environment

The claim that a vegetarian diet has a better impact on the environment than a carnivorous one is forthright. The process is very simple: If we nourish vegetables to animals, and then eat them, we employ more resources and generate a strong greenhouse effect than if we just consume vegetables. As with most of the discussion concerning the food supply, the issue raised is not so easily to apply. Yes, surely beef is expensive, but sometimes eating pork or chicken can be more environmental-friendly than eating broccoli.
Don’t you believe at what I have just said?
Here I provide a simple numerical example: if you want to compare cows with chicken and beef with vegetables, you may use data from the Environmental Working Group, which issued a paper including for the main kind of food the equivalent environmental impact. The paper comprehends a chart that gives a ranking for each general food in relation to the bulk of emissions originated during the production. Ruminants are the highest emission makers, with lamb generating 39 kg of carbon dioxide for each kg of beef. Beef on average generates 27 kg of carbon dioxide. More environmental friendly kind of meat are pork (12 kg), turkey (11 kg) and chicken (7 kg). Of course, plants generate few emissions, going from potatoes (3) broccoli (2) to lentils (1).

You might not understand the issue I have raised; everything seems to be as you believe: plants are more environmental friendly than meat. You sure have a point, but sometimes raw data should not be taken as they are.
Indeed, there’s another way to analyze the same data. Assume that you stop eating meat, you can’t substitute a kg of it, which contains 2,300 calories, with a kg of broccoli, at 320 calories. You have to substitute it with 7.2 kg of broccoli. In proportion 1 kilo of chicken generates slightly less than half of the emissions of its caloric equivalent of 7.2 kg of broccoli! Calories are our dimension, and they can be adopted as our basic measure for the calculation. With this view in mind, the prospective looks different: it is true that lamb is still very high level of calories, but pork, turkey and chicken look a whole lot better. Low-calorie vegetables like broccoli and lentils are not doing well.

Are you shocked?
Don’t worry, beef still looks bad as hell and vegetables still look good as heaven, while chicken and turkey are closer to purgatory. While I believe that we all should pay more attention to what we eat, vegetarians shouldn’t tell omnivores to eat lentils instead of turkey and conversely omnivores should not tell vegetarians to eat lamb instead of broccoli.
Now the question is how would you schedule your diet?
Stay tuned, stay green

Gabriele Tringali