When it comes to climate change, we often think of the cars we drive and the energy we use in our homes and offices as the biggest culprits. When taking a bite of hamburgers or salmon, we do not always see the environmental impact that these foods have on the planet.
However, the bad news is that agriculture is known to have a huge impact when it comes to producing greenhouse gasses. In fact, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the greenhouse gases produced by agriculture are currently on the rise. When it comes to food production, not all products are created equal. The following are foods that should be avoided by anyone who is looking to decrease their carbon footprint.
10. Almond Milk
Almond milk is one of the most sought after alternative milk products. However, for all its health benefits, its impact on the environment has been hefty. More than 80% of the world’s almonds come from California, which as of late has been experiencing a terrible drought. Each plant requires around five liters of water to grow. In addition, it also requires 100 liters of water to produce 100 ml of almond milk. This creates a high demand for water, forcing farmers to drill wells, which have been known to affect bridges, roads, irrigation canals, and trigger earthquakes whose effects are destructive to the environment.
Animal agriculture contributes about 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gasses of which 65% comes from beef and dairy cattle. The Natural Resources Defense Council in the US estimates that each kilogram of beef produced emits about 27 kgs of carbon dioxide. By summing up the amount of beef consumed per day across the globe, this means that beef has a hefty carbon footprint. In addition, cows produce methane gas, classified as a harmful greenhouse gas. In many countries, deforestation is enormous in order to clear land for more cattle reducing the tapping of greenhouse gasses that have resulted in climate change.
Lamb, just like beef animals in agriculture, contributes to climate change with each kg of lamb meat contributing to 22.9 kgs of carbon emissions. Red meat production is resource intensive as it requires a large amount of animal feed (mainly corn and soy). The synthetic fertilizers and manure used to grow the corn and soy emit nitrous oxide, a climate warming pollutant that is 298 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
Cheese is also known as a major carbon dioxide contributor. Firstly, it comes from cows, who emit methane gas. Secondly, it requires refrigeration and transport. Only a portion of the cheese in the market is imported but it contributes to half the amount of carbon emissions. Cheese production is energy intensive due to the several processes involved in separating raw milk from low-fat cream, which is then pasteurized, cooled, ripened, and churned. In addition, refrigeration and transportation of the cheese are also very energy intensive, requiring more energy which is detrimental to the environment.
Rice paddies are the largest source of methane gas on the earth. Being the world’s second most produced and demanded staple food, rice production accounts largely for the rising temperatures due to methane. Microorganisms that produce carbon monoxide produce methane in rice paddies. The increased carbon dioxide levels boost rice yields, but to some extent increase emission of methane. Consequently, the amount of methane produced per kilogram of rice yield will increase resulting in increased temperatures near rice paddies. Global demand for rice is on the rise, and this combined with a growing world population, means the amount of methane emissions from rice growing will increase over time.
5. White bread
We all know that both whole grain and wheat bread are healthier than white bread. Producing white bread requires the pure refining of wheat flour through a series of alteration processes that are highly energy consuming. Processes require extensive refining which consumes more energy resources and has a greater negative impact on the planet. There is also a growing concern over the pollution caused by plastic packaging.
The production of one egg uses around 4.8 kg of carbon dioxide. Most of the emissions associated with eggs come from the production of chicken feed, on-farm energy consumption, nitrous oxide gas produced by the poultry litter, and the burning of fuel when cooking. Additionally, the rise of caged houses for the chicken results in increased ammonia production, particularly from the manure.
Tuna has longtime been the victim of overfishing throughout the world waters. Fishing and consuming endangered species of tuna only serves to accelerate extinction of the species from the oceans. The methods used by large commercial fishing vessels to catch tuna is threatening their numbers resulting in the killing of countless numbers of their species as well as other kinds of marine life trapped in the fishing vessels.
Salmon is rich in omega 3, which is highly recommended by health experts. However, salmon farming is one of the most destructive aquaculture systems that there is. The aquaculture practices require the use of open net-cages that are directly thrown into the ocean, waste from the farms, chemicals, and disease causing parasites are released directly into the ocean waters, threatening other marine life. In addition, the practice has resulted in the depletion of wild fish stocks due to the high protein required to raise salmon.
You are not doing any justice to the environment by consuming chicken. Poultry farming is a major cause of environmental degradation in the United States. Firstly, 10 billion birds are slaughtered every year in the US leading to environmental pollution resulting from carcasses. Thousands of birds are overcrowded into exceptionally small areas resulting to a filthy, unpleasant and disease infested environment due to the noxious confinement of living creatures in small spaces.