High-Carbon Footprint Households Identified by Sweets and Restaurant Meals, Not Higher Meat Consumption

Families with higher carbon footprints are likely to consume more confectionary, alcohol, and restaurant food, according to a new study published in One Earth.   (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Families with higher carbon footprints are likely to consume more confectionary, alcohol, and restaurant food, according to a new study published in One Earth. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Families with higher carbon footprints are likely to consume more confectionaries, alcohol, and restaurant food, according to a new study published in One Earth.

Considering the spectrum of traditional to urban lifestyles across Japan, researchers at the University of Sheffield and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan, analyzed the carbon footprints of the diets of 60,000 households across Japan’s 47 regions.

Using a life-cycle approach that details food supply chains around the country, they found that meat consumption was relatively constant per household — but carbon footprints were not. The study shows that meat consumption could explain less than 10 percent of the difference seen in carbon footprints between Japanese families.

Instead, households with higher carbon footprints tended to consume more food from restaurants, as well as more vegetables and fish. However, it was the level of consumption of sweets and alcohol — two to three times higher than families with low carbon footprints — that really stood out.

Meat has earned a reputation as an environmentally damaging food, with beef production emitting 20 times more greenhouse gases than bean production for the same amount of protein. However, the researchers caution against a one-size-fits-all policy after finding that the consumption of sweets, alcohol, and restaurant food adds to families’ footprints in a larger capacity than other items.

Meat has earned a reputation as an environmentally damaging food, with beef production emitting 20 times more greenhouse gases than bean production for the same amount of protein. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Meat has earned a reputation as an environmentally damaging food, with beef production emitting 20 times more greenhouse gases than bean production for the same amount of protein. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

 

Eating out was found to contribute on average 770 kg of greenhouse gases per year for those households with a higher footprint, whereas meat contributed just 280 kg. Associate Professor Keiichiro Kanemoto of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan — who led the research — said:

Kanemoto does, however, recommend eating less meat to reduce a household’s environmental impact, saying:

Japan’s population is one of the oldest in the world, a trend that many industrial countries are following. This suggests that successful policies for dietary change and energy efficiency in Japan could act as models for many countries in the coming decades.

All countries are facing challenges in how to shift diets to be healthier and more sustainable. This evidence from Japan demonstrates that research can help us to identify what to focus on. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

All countries are facing challenges in how to shift diets to be healthier and more sustainable. This evidence from Japan demonstrates that research can help us to identify what to focus on. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The Japanese also have a relatively healthy diet, which is frequently attributed to them having the world’s longest lifespan by country. Dr. Christian Reynolds, from the Institute of Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, one of the study’s co-authors, said:

Provided by: University of Sheffield [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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