Food's Carbon Footprint

A new study from the Environmental Working Group in the U.S. is getting a lot of coverage in the media these days, as is their call for Americans to forego meat and cheese one day a week. (This sounds familiar... where have I heard this before? Oh, yeah. The Monday thing.) They calculate that if every American did this, it would be the same in environmental terms as the country driving 91 billion fewer miles per year. That's a lot of kicks on Route 66. Because Americans consume more meat and cheese than other countries, I won't even attempt to extrapolate this beyond their borders to include the entire world, but the rough math is A LOT. That's one of the reasons we got into this thing in the first place.

They came to this conclusion by partnering with an environmental analysis and consulting firm to do lifecycle assessments of 20 different kinds of meat, fish and dairy products as well as several popular vegetable protein sources for comparison. The results are not surprising. Lamb, beef, cheese, pork and farmed salmon generate the highest amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Their handy chart gives us a visual basis for the differences, which are stark. Every 4oz of beef consumed is responsible for the same GHGs as driving your car over 6 miles. 4oz of lentils barely gets you out of your driveway.

I like their inclusion of cheese in the call for reduction of consumption. They aren't the first to recognize that cheese has the same impact on people's health as meat, it certainly qualifies as one of the highest (third) in GHGs and the life of a dairy cow is not a happy one to say the least, so eating less of it has a lot of upsides. Meatless Mondays doesn't really cover cheese in people's minds, though. Will we need to add a "Cheeseless Choosedays," I mean Tuesdays into our week? For that matter, will the Pope be calling for a "Fishless Fryday?" Will the French be calling it "Vendredi sans Viande" or "Legume Lundi?" Can we add "Wholegrain Wednesdays" or "Fruit-filled Fridays" into the mix? (I am hereby copyrighting all these terms, by the way.)

If I had really been planning ahead, I would have made a recipe out of lentils, but you could always go back to an old favourite if you were excited to make a lentil dish. Instead, this week's recipe is again an old family favourite which is a summer staple of many Young Family get-togethers. It makes for great leftovers, too. Enjoy!