A new UK based study has revealed that the higher portion of meat-consumption by men in their diets is responsible for 40 percent more climate-heating emissions than those of women’s diets.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One, analysed 212 British people and the emissions linked to the 3,200 specific food items they consumed. Researchers recorded the participants’ food and drink intake over a period of 24-hours. They then repeated this experiment three times.
The results showed that meat-based diets created almost two thirds more emissions than vegetarian diets, and that male participants had 41 percent more emissions than female participants.
Lead scientist Holly Rippin from the University of Leeds believes her study can offer people ways to help combat climate change.
“We all want to do our bit to help save the planet,” she told The Guardian. “Working out how to modify our diets is one way we can do that. There are broad-brush concepts like reducing our meat intake, particularly red meat, but our work also shows that big gains can be made from small changes, like cutting out sweets.”
Rippin added that the research was not trying to work out why male participants consumed more meat.
“We can speculate that it could be because men generally eat more food than women,” she said. “We could also speculate that men may eat more traditional meat-based diets.”
The study also found that animal products were responsible for almost half of the average diet’s greenhouse gas emissions, with 31 percent from meat consumption and 14 percent from dairy.
The scientists believe that policies to encourage sustainable diets should focus on plant-based foods, adding that switching drinks and cutting down on sweets and snacks was also helpful for the environment.
Roughly 25 percent of diet-related emissions were found to be from “optional” foods and drinks, including as coffee, alcohol, sweets and cakes.
Drinks were found to cause 15 percent of emissions, while sweets and cakes caused 8 percent of emissions.
University of Oxford’s senior researcher in population health, Dr Marco Springmann, led a second study, which found that men’s consumption of goods caused 16 percent more climate-heating emissions than women’s, mostly due to men’s higher spending on vehicular activities.
“We think the fact that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets can save you a lot of money is going to surprise people,” Springmann told The Guardian.
“When scientists like me advocate for healthy and environmentally-friendly eating it’s often said that we’re sitting in our ivory towers promoting something that is financially out of reach for most people.”
“This study shows that it’s quite the opposite. These diets could be better for your bank balance as well as your health and the health of the planet.”
Springmann’s study also found that in western countries, vegan and vegetarian diets were roughly a third cheaper than regular diets.
His 2018 study revealed that meat-eating in developed countries needed be sharply reduced for any positive impact to be made against climate change, since cows and other farm animals produce roughly 14 percent of human-induced climate emissions, and deforestation caused by cattle farming, which is responsible for the release of 340 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year — equivalent to 3.4 percent of current global emissions.
The study, titled, “Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods”, published in Nature Food, used a model–data integration approach to conclude that beef was the largest contributing animal-based commodity.
The database from Springmann’s study analysed forty thousand branded food items, and which would allow consumers to make environmentally helpful consumption choices by selecting specific brands.
That same study looked at the costs of different diets by comparing seven sustainable diets to the current ‘typical diet’ in 150 countries using food prices from the World Bank.
Published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health, it found that in high-income countries, vegan diets were the most affordable, reducing food costs by 21-34 percent compared to the average, meat-based diet.
Vegetarian diets came in second, reducing food costs by 27-31 percent.
A diet that has reduced meat and dairy consumption lowers costs by 14 percent, though diets including seafood increased costs by 2 percent.
Both Rippin and Springmann’s studies confirm historical research that have shown that healthy diets are also lower-emission diets.
In Australia, roughly 2 percent of the population are vegan, according to data from the National Nutrition Survey. A 2019 survey found that roughly 2.5 million Australians have a diet that is all or almost all vegetarian and almost 10 million Australians are eating less red meat.
These figures make us the second-most popular country in the world for vegans in 2020, behind only the U.K, according to according culinary website Chef’s Pencil’s latest annual index of the most popular places for vegans.