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13 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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One simple food substitution might help save the planet

One simple food substitution might help save the planet

One simple change in your diet -- replacing beef with poultry -- could go a long way toward curbing climate change, research shows.

Beef is the largest dietary contributor to greenhouse gases for average people, and replacing it can halve a diner's food-based carbon footprint and improve health, according to findings presented Monday at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting, in Baltimore.

"Basically, the top 10 highest carbon foods are all either a cut of beef or ground beef, said lead researcher Diego Rose, director of nutrition at Tulane University in New Orleans. "We can substitute that for things people would still find satisfying, in a culinary sense, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

For this study, Rose and his colleagues analysed diet information from more than 16,000 participants in the nationwide health and nutrition survey conducted

by the US Centres for Disease Control and

Prevention.

The researchers compared what people ate to the greenhouse gases emitted during production of those foods, to calculate a carbon footprint for individual diets.

The 10 foods with the greatest impact on the environment were all cuts of beef. About 20% of respondents reported eating one of these high-carbon foods on the day they were surveyed, researchers said.

The foods with the heaviest carbon footprint leave quite an impression on the planet. The top 20% of foods had almost five times more impact on the environment than the bottom 20%, Rose said.

Researchers then calculated a new carbon footprint for each diet by replacing beef with poultry -- broiled chicken for broiled steak, ground turkey for ground beef.

"When we subbed them out, we found the drop from emissions from the new diets were about half what they were before -- 48% less," Rose said.

Simulations showed people's dietary carbon footprint became smaller even though they would be eating just as much.

"We wanted to make sure the substitutions were the same calories, so we're not putting anybody on a diet here," Rose said.

There are a couple of reasons why beef has such a heavy environmental impact, he said.

First, raising cattle involves two rounds of agriculture -- first, growing feed corn for the cows, and then raising cows with that corn, Rose said.

Cows' digestive systems also are geared to draw maximum nutrition from grass, which involves digestion through a series of four stomachs, Rose said. This produces a lot of methane, which the cows expel by burping or passing gas.

One positive side effect from subbing out beef came in people's overall diet quality, as measured by a healthy eating index, Rose said.

"People's diets improved not just from the carbon footprint but the healthiness of their diet as well," he said. "It's not a lot, but it's there and it's significant. It's a win-win."

Wayne Campbell is a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. He said that the study's conclusions were "consistent with what would be expected" from replacing red meat with white.

"I like the way they did their calculations within the context of what people generally eat, as opposed to manipulating someone's diet in a contrived manner," said Campbell, who wasn't involved with the study.

But he said more research is needed.

    HealthDay

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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