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kangaroo meats
Kangaroo Instead of Beef

Recent food consumption wisdom would suggest that Locavore Eating – eating local foods – is the way of the future. It seems perfectly logical that eating local food will reduce our emissions footprint. With a world population now over 7 billion, the question of how we’re going to feed everyone without damaging the environment is paramount. Not to mention the other 2.5 billion that will be added between now and 2050.

Makes perfect sense, right? Not So!

Stephen Dubner Freakonomics
Stephen Dubner –  Freakonomics
Stephen Dubner  (Freakonomics co-author) narrates a video  presenting a valid counter argument entitled Does Eating Local Hurt the Environment?  This video – a new feature on Huffington Post – claims that a small upstate NY farmer transporting 50 lbs of grapes to a Manhattan market will produce more emissions per pound of grapes than a large South American commercial vineyard exporting tons of grapes on massive cargo ships over longer distances.

 So, although it seems counter-intuitive, eating local may not the best idea after all. This is confirmed in a study by two researchers from Carnegie Melon  (Chris Weber & Scott Mathews) who:

 “suggest that a dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than “buying local.” Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food………the GHG emissions associated with food are dominated by the production phase, contributing 83% of the average U.S. household’s……….footprint for food consumption…..transportation as a whole represents only 11% of life-cycle GHG emissions, and final delivery from producer to retail contributes only 4%” claim Mathews and Weber.

What you might want to consider instead is eating less meat, particularly beef and dairy products. Cows are wickedly polluting organisms – producing methane, which is 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. 30 percent of the world’s ice-free land is devoted to live-stock production, according to The New York Times.

kangaroo meat cuts
Kangaroo Meat

A much better solution would be to switch to kangaroo meat since it does not produce as much deadly methane as cows do.

Americans and Canadians consume 36 and 30 kgs of meat per capita respectively, whereas China and India have a per capita consumption of only 4 and 2 kgs.

North Americans need a new food consumption paradigm.

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  1. Intuitively, I just knew that eating local is the way to go. It’s just common sense. Now not so sure – need to look more closely at the research referenced above.

    Good post

  2. I checked out the Study by Weber and Mathew. It’s a technical paper that clearly downplays the local food phenomenon. However, some foods  are still better grown locally.

    Local foods will give you better nutritive value, support the local economy and will lead to growth of local agriculture. With the growth of local food industry, economies of scale will further encourage eating local.

    • Good point Vince.It takes a whole lot less energy to produce and consume cereals and other plant based nutrition than it does to produce meat products. That said, we’re a long way from seeing veganism become the dominant diet of North Americans. 

      Maybe a first step would be to reduce our meat consumption by say 50% – that may be a more attainable goal.

  3. Taking it from the aggregate to the individual … Most of us in the developed world who are in charge of our food choices – probably each of us here, for example – can reduce our animal product consumption 100 percent if we want to, at any time, regardless of what everybody else is doing.

    Another way to look at this is … since your next-door neighbor and China may not be reducing their meat consumption 50%, you can compensate for that as best you can.

  4. Replacing beef in your diet for one meal a week with chicken, eggs, turkey, fish, kangaroo or any other animal meat or dairy is NOT going to solve our climate warming disaster. We have to reduce meat and dairy drastically, and then stop it altogether, and move to veganism. For the sake of our children, and their children for generations to come, isn’t eating a plant based diet worth protecting land, air, water and soil, and keeping global warming down worth their lives? One meat/dairy free meal a week is a drop in the bucket.

    I encourage everyone reading this post to calculate your environmental footprint online. And look at how your footprint changes when you halve your meat/dairy consumption, and when you stop meat/dairy altogether. I did it…and it wasn’t any loss to me. I’m healthier and lost some weight, and am happier knowing that I have lowered my carbon and water footprints dramatically by removing animal products from my diet. Start off with making 2 vegetarian meals a week. Take quinoa salads for lunch. Have hot cereal with fresh fruit for breakfast. Stir fried noodles and vegetables with sauteed tofu for lunch. I eat a lot of amazing home-made soups and vegetable stews. I don’t ever miss meat or dairy. I am happier to know that I am not causing suffering to beautiful farm animals that are treated so badly. Please research the dairy industry’s cruelty to dairy cows and their male offspring, or the true meaning of cage free chickens. I feel freer knowing I am using a lot less water by eating vegan. and am not taking in toxins from the meat and dairy industry. Go green, go organic, be healthy! Check out two websites: OneGreenPlanet for recipes and meal ideas. and for nutritional information on meat, dairy and a vegan diet. Enjoy! Now I am working on reducing vehicle use. I recycle everything, but still have some plastics in my life, am phasing those out with glass and metal containers and reusable cloth bags. We only have one planet, and how we eat makes a HUGE difference to our world. Our oceans are 90% fished out, and climate change and toxic pollution is killing off many species in the sea. Please at least make a start to reducing your environmental footprint by limiting what is on your plate.


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