Everyone wants to save the planet — but when it comes to actually doing it, sometimes it's hard to know whose advice to follow. Early this year the United Nations suggested that adopting a vegan diet could counter the "unsustainable" Western preference for meat and dairy. New research from Carnegie Mellon University, however, seems to directly contradict that prescription.
The university's new report says "following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie." A co-author of the study, professor Paul Fischbeck, warned about the resources required to produce many vegetables. "Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken," he said.
So what's a consumer to do? Overall, the study concluded that the best way to shrink the food chain footprint — albeit by a minor nine percent — is to simply lower caloric intake and get obesity under control. Co-author Michelle Tom, a Ph.D student, said, "What is good for us health-wise isn't always what's best for the environment. That's important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future."
As for what's best for us health-wise, the World Health Organization caused an uproar recently when it categorized red and processed meats as cancer-causing agents — but as The Verge pointed out, the risk is incredibly small.