If Americans altered their menus to conform to federal dietary recommendations, emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases tied to agricultural production could increase significantly, according to a new study by University of Michigan researchers.
Martin Heller and Gregory Keoleian of U-M's Center for Sustainable Systems looked at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of about 100 foods, as well as the potential effects of shifting Americans to a diet recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
They found that if Americans adopted the recommendations in USDA's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010," while keeping caloric intake constant, diet-related greenhouse gas emissions would increase 12 percent.
If Americans reduced their daily caloric intake to the recommended level of about 2,000 calories while shifting to a healthier diet, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by only 1 percent, according to Heller and Keoleian.
A paper by Heller and Keoleian titled "Greenhouse gas emission estimates of U.S. dietary choices and food loss" is scheduled for online publication Sept. 5 in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
"The take-home message is that health and environmental agendas are not aligned in the current dietary recommendations," Heller said.
The paper's findings are especially relevant now because the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is for the first time considering food sustainability within the context of dietary recommendations, he said.
In its 2010 dietary guidelines, USDA recommends that Americans eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood. They should consume less salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugar and refined grains.
The guidelines don't explicitly state that Americans should eat less meat. However, an appendix to the report lists the recommended average daily intake amounts of various foods, including meat. The recommended amount of meat is significantly less than current consumption levels, which Heller and Keoleian estimated using the USDA's Loss Adjusted Food Availability dataset as a proxy for per capita food consumption in the United States.
While a drop in meat consumption would help cut diet-related greenhouse gas emissions, increased use of dairy products—and to a lesser extent seafood, fruits and vegetables—would have the opposite effect, increasing diet-related emissions, according to the U-M researchers.
In the United States in 2010, food production was responsible for about 8 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. In general, animal-based foods are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions per pound than plant-based foods.
The production of both beef cattle and dairy cows is tied to especially high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
For starters, cows don't efficiently convert plant-based feed into muscle or milk, so they must eat lots of feed. Growing that feed often involves the use of fertilizers and other substances manufactured through energy-intensive processes. And then there's the fuel used by farm equipment.
In addition, cows burp lots of methane, and their manure also releases this potent greenhouse gas.
Greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing the U.S. diet are dominated by the meats category, according to Heller and Keoleian. While beef accounts for only 4 percent by weight of the food available, it contributes 36 percent of the associated greenhouse gases, they conclude.
The U-M researchers found that a switch to diets that don't contain animal products would lead to the biggest reductions in this country's diet-related greenhouse emissions.
But Heller said he's not arguing that all Americans should go vegan, and he believes that animals need to be part of a sustainable agricultural system. However, reduced consumption would have both health and environmental benefits.
In their Journal of Industrial Ecology paper, Heller and Keoleian also looked at wasted food and how it contributes to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. They concluded that annual emissions tied to uneaten food are equivalent to adding 33 million passenger vehicles to the nation's roads.
Center for Sustainable Systems at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment: http://css.snre.umich.edu
University of Michigan | newswise
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences