Resources-per-calorie study criticised

A widely reported US study claiming that some vegetables have a higher environmental footprint than meats has been attacked as misleading.

Image: Morguefile
Image: Morguefile

Professor Paul Fischbeck of Carnegie Mellon University, a co-author of the study published in Environment Systems and Decisions, said: "Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon.

"Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant (aubergine), celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken."

The findings were picked up by most UK national newspapers last month, but according to US-based food politics author and publisher of the site Vegan.com Erik Marcus, the research findings have been misleading: "The researchers decided to measure the environmental impact of meat versus veggies in the most misleading way imaginable: by comparing the highest-calorie meats to the lowest-calorie vegetables."

To match the calorific content of four rashers of bacon, one would have to eat enough shredded green lettuce to fill a standard full-sized grocery bag almost to the brim, he pointed out.

Marcus said: "You don't eat vegetables, especially super low-calorie items like lettuce, cucumbers, and eggplant, for the calories. You eat them for the taste, the fibre, the nutrients, and the fact that higher vegetable consumption has a strong association with better health."

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