Avoiding high-emissions foods can have a huge climate impact.
Roughly half of the habitable land on Earth is devoted to growing the food we eat. Of that land, nearly 80 percent is for grazing livestock.
Raising livestock for food takes up a lot of space, and that explains a big reason why animal products produce far more greenhouse gas than fruits and vegetables—making way for animals releases all the carbon once stored in trees, other plants, and soil. Much of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, for example, is due to clearing land for grazing cattle.
But it doesn’t explain everything—the farming process for some foods, like coffee, uses fertilizers that emit the powerful greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide. And the biology of some animals, known as ruminants, is responsible for emitting tons of methane into the atmosphere.
Land use and the farming process are the two biggest factors that determine the emissions that go into growing or producing a food product. That’s what a team of researchers at University of Oxford found when it looked at data from more than 38,000 commercial farms in 119 countries. What resulted is the most comprehensive study comparing the greenhouse gas emissions from the production and distribution of common foods.
They also found that one food product, in particular, emits far more greenhouse gas than any other. This video explains why.
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