Study Examines Environmental Impact Of Veggies. Oops, Lettuce Is More Harmful Than…


Researchers trying to justify a mostly plant based diet for humans are reeling from the results yielded by a study that seems to put lettuce in the crosshairs of environmental righteousness.  When one considers what it takes to get food to market in its totality – water, sun, growing space, feeding, fuel, packaging, etc. – the oh, so smart ones at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh started looking as the entire total impact of the human diet on the planet and made a startling discovery.

Lettuce is “over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon”, …

Researchers did not argue against the idea people should be eating less meat, or the fact that livestock contributes to an enormous proportion of global emissions – up to 51 per cent according to some studies.

But they found that eating only the recommended “healthier” foods prescribed in recent advice from the US Department of Agriculture increased a person’s impact on the environment across all three factors – even when overall calorie intake was reduced.

The study was published in the Environment Systems and Decisions peer reviewed journal, and studied emissions, water use, and energy costs.  While it is true that plants do soak up all that carbon dioxide that animals exhale, it is also true that they soak up a lot of water – particularly kitchen garden fare that ends up being half water when it is eaten.

Paul Fischbeck, study co-author and CMU’s professor of social and decisions sciences, said: “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think.

“Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

People who have actually raised fruits and vegetables will not be shocked by this.  No way, Jose.  Ever see a garden or an orchard during a drought?  Can you say dead as a doornail with teeny tiny yields if any?  Obviously, these people don’t cook, either.  Veggies always cook down.  

Where was I?  Oh, yes, the “shocking” discovery that lettuce uses up a lot of resources on its way to market in comparison to meat and poultry.  Let’s think about this, shall we?

  • First off, it takes a whole lot of vegetables to make up the nutritional and caloric content of meat.  In fact, meat has a lot of necessary nutrients not found in plants.
  • Second, during a good portion of the annual growing season, plant growth doesn’t happen above certain latitudes outdoors.  If a critical mass of people aren’t growing their own indoors, or don’t have them stored for the winter, shipping fruits and veggies cross country is a necessary evil.
  • Third, the life span of a chicken headed to market, according to a source inside the industry, is 42 days.  One chicken can feed a family of four for at least a couple meals if budgeted correctly.  One side of beef can feed that same family for a winter when frozen after butchering.  Same sort of concept for pork.  With meat a little goes a long way.
  • When it comes to methane content, not much is worse than humans after eating beans.  Darn those complex carbohydrates that cannot be digested in some people’s guts.  So, really, if methane production is a real problem, maybe recommending humans eat legume class beans might be a mistake.

This is not to say that humans should not eat their vegetables and some fruit.  Particularly lettuce with extra virgin olive oil (lowers blood pressure).  But the leftie, looney liberal panacea of all humans eating vegan to save the planet is proving to be precisely the opposite of reality.  Shipping high water content fruits and vegetables negates the environmental pluses of the foods.

Yes, it is now safe to ask WHERE’S THE BEEF?

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.