A plant-based diet yields one-fourth as much heat-trapping gas as a diet rich in meat, according to an exhaustive new analysis.
For the study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of more than 55,000 Britons, drawing on data from more than 38,000 farms in 119 countries to gauge the environmental impact of their diets. Richard Tiffin, an economist at the University of Reading who was not involved with the research, said the study “represents the most comprehensive attempt to link food consumption data to the data on the environmental impacts of food production.”
The analysis found that plant-based diets produce 75 percent less heat-trapping gas, generate 75 percent less water pollution, and use 75 percent less land than meat-rich diets — those that include at least 100 grams of meat daily, the equivalent of one steak around the size of a deck of cards.
Low-meat diets, those that include 50 grams of meat or less, yield roughly half as much heat-trapping gas, half as much water pollution, and use half as much land as meat-rich diets. Pescatarian diets perform better than low-meat diets, while vegetarian diets perform better than pescatarian diets, though differences between these three diets are small. The findings were published in the journal Nature Food.
“Our dietary choices have a big impact on the planet,” Peter Scarborough, a researcher at Oxford University and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Cutting down the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a big difference to your dietary footprint.”