How Choosing Chicken Over Beef Helps Save The Environment

With climate change posing a bigger threat than ever before, the mad scramble to help reverse this is in full swing. This has led to some surprising choices, such as attempting to “re-freeze” the Arctic, and cutting down working hours to save massive amounts of energy.

And now according to the first-ever study on U.S. eating habits and their carbon footprints, you too can significantly reduce the amount of your carbon footprint as well. How? By choosing to eat carbon-light chicken instead of carbon-heavy beef.

It’s an idea that came from out of nowhere, but it’s validated nonetheless. To evaluate the potential of this idea, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey recently asked around 16,000 participants to recall what food they ate in the last 24 hours.

Afterwards, the researchers then calculated the carbon emissions of the food that people mentioned they ate. For example, if beef is involved in a meal, the researchers would then try to estimate how much less the emissions would be if they replaced it with chicken.

“We knew eating chicken instead of beef would lower carbon emissions related to diet but it was much lower than expected,” said Diego Rose, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Based on the study’s findings, because beef uses more energy, fertilizer and land more than chicken, it tends to lead to more carbon emissions, and the results showed that one simple substitution can make a significant change. However, the researchers said that you don’t have to cut animal products just so you can reduce you carbon footprint.

Food production accounts for more or less a quarter of total global carbon emissions, and limiting the rise of meat consumption can help keep this down.

Per study co-author Martin Heller, the switch to a diet with less meat and more plant-based proteins will also be better in the long run, as the evidence is clear for both health and environmental reasons.

“A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits,” said Walter Willett of the EAT-Lancet Commission.

cooked chicken Roasted Chicken Breast, Goat Cheese Polenta, Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts, Currants at Parallel Post in Trumbull, Connecticut. Bad odor, a sign of contaminated chicken, is not easy to spot in meat that has been marinated with various ingredients such as herbs and spices. Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images