The food we eat is responsible for almost a third of our global carbon footprint. In research recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production we ranked fresh foods based on how much greenhouse gas is produced from farm to fork.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that red meat is the most emissions-intensive food we consume. But we also found that field-grown vegetables produce the least greenhouse gas. For instance, it takes about 50 onions to produce a kilogram of greenhouse gas, but only 44 grams of beef to produce the same amount.
We hope that chefs, caterers and everyday foodies will use this information to cook meals without cooking the planet.
From farm to fork
To produce our ranking, we compiled 369 published life-cycle assessment studies of 168 varieties of fresh produce, including fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, grains and nuts, dairy and livestock.
To find out how much greenhouse gas is produced in food production, we need to look at all the activities that produce emissions on the way from paddock to the regional distribution centre.
This includes: farm inputs from chemicals and fertilisers; fuel and energy inputs from irrigation and machinery for cultivation, harvesting and processing; and transport and refrigeration to the regional distribution centre.
It also includes emissions released from fertilised soils, plants and animals in fields, but doesn’t include activities such as retail, cooking in the…