The Cost of What’s for Dinner

Earlier this evening, I went to the grocery store and picked up some things. Then I came home and found out that most of my grocery basket was just plain wrong for the planet. You know, except for the bread, salad, fruit, and bell pepper I bought, pretty much everything else had something to do with animal products: milk, cheese, meat, prepared frozen dinners with meat, etc. Researchers at the University of Chicago report that the closer a diet comes to that used by exclusive vegans, the better it is in terms of reduced greenhouse emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and a half of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a strictly vegetarian diet, according to Eshel and Martin. And with Earth Day approaching on April 22, cutting down on just a few eggs or hamburgers each week is an easy way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, they said. “We neither make a value judgment nor do we make a categorical statement,” said Eshel, an Assistant Professor in Geophysical Sciences.

“We say that however close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference.”

Well, I don’t know that I can go so far as a exclusive vegan diet myself. I did make a pretty big shift in diet as a result of the surgeries I had in 2004. I eat far less beef and more chicken, so far as meat is concerned. I don’t seem to do well even with a primarily vegetarian diet with cheese and milk included. But I can appreciate some of the message being sent by Eshel and Martin.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.