Protein an animal based versus plant based food carbon footprint.

in #nutrition3 years ago (edited)

If you follow any vegetarian or vegan on social media, chances are you will have seen images of just how non-plant-based foods are for our planet. There are infographics going around comparing meat dairy and eggs to rice, taters, fruits and vegetables and looking at those, it seems as if eating anything non-plant-based makes you a horrid person.

But then, if we look closer, there are a few things that stand out.

  • These foods are compared on a per kg basis.
  • These foods have wildly different caloric densities.
  • These foods have wildly different macro splits.

I've spent a few hours looking at the numbers, and when looking at selecting foods to compose a healthy, relatively high protein diet, the image starts to look a whole lot different.

It is quite easy to get enough carbs. It is quite easy to get enough fat. Getting enough protein, or better yet, getting optimum protein is a whole lot more difficult, especially for people with metabolic issues. So if we realize that, we can look at our food carbon footprint not per kg of food but per gram of protein.

The below image shows the carbon (equivalent) footprint of some foods of both plant and animal origin.

For contrast, here is one of the horridly misleading images that go around in vegetarian and vegan circles

Same data, other representation. I hope that with the first picture to contrast against the second, and with realizing just how silly the whole 'per kg of food' idea is, you the reader now see that the truth is quite a bit more nuanced than the plant-based narrative of our food carbon footprint could lead one to believe.

This is my first food-related blog post here on steemit since I ended my Wordpress hosting on and forked off a @engineerdiet steemit account from my main @pibara account. I'l be resteeming my @engineerdiet posts as @pibara for a while until I have maybe 50 or so followers on this account.



If we weave in the Protein Leverage Hypothesis on the front end of this, and then the energy capture characteristics of non-equilibrium thermodynamics (get as much life, living, as possible) then Planet of The Vegans is not only a non-viable answer, it is moving the whole system in the dead wrong direction.

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If human breast milk is only 6% protein ... then why do adult humans need any more? Since we need less calories per kg as an infant - you're theory doesn't make sense.

Further, you left out your references. Where did you pull all these numbers from?


Numbers are from combining data from with public nutrient tables. You really shouldn't get your nutrition science from any of the PCRM people. These people have an animal rights agenda and many of them lost the credibility they had by contributing to Kip Anderson PETA propaganda "documentaries". But beside that, the point is, CO2 friendly sources of carbohydrates and fats are plentiful and easy. It's protein that is challenging.

I wrote on protein Vs fiber recently in response to the worst of the bunch from the PCRM crew, I don't think it will change your mind, but hopefully it can give you something to think about:

Very good post @engineerdiet ,
We must use the information truthfully,

There could be an interesting alternative in edible insects. Healthier than beef, similar, if not more crude protein, and much less enviromental impact.

The insects which can be eaten by humans (I do not know whether they needed an adjustment period or not), should be listed somewhere - surely some scientist thought of compiling such a list?

btw: I have added this to my precious list of Steemit posts bookmarked and backed up every week on another hard drive.
My question is, if eating insects is a pleasure and healthy, why do those insect-eating tribes move over to the mainstream diet of beef, chicken (mostly) and so on? Could it be that the alternative is either not as tasty or not as healthy?

If I am wrong, can you please supply info as to why evolution of mankind did not lead to all of us only eating insects for protein - surely that would give us an advantage of our meat-eating neighbours?

Sorry, but until you can convince me with facts, I think I will stick to my lovely lamb chops, T-bone steaks and curried chicken....

@engineerdiet - I have saved this with all my precious Steemit posts in my bookmarks - and then saved them by backup on another hard drive.

Interesting post @engineerdiet
I have been on a plant based diet for 20 years and I'm very passionate about nutrition and sustainability. I can say that a vegan diet works because I've experienced it on many levels of my self and in many ways. However, I believe people should be aware of where the food comes from, especially if that food will enter their body. For sure everyone will have different timing in finding out that by eating a plant based diet we can prevent many diseases and many disasters of this planet.... said that we respect any choice and we share the beauties with others!!!! :)

The infographic you posted is misleading, at best. Really, no one eats lettuce for its protein content.

The other thing that jumps out is that pulses (legumes, lentils, beans, peas) are what plant based eaters typically eat when they want protein - and those foods' carbon footprint is tiny:

Add lentils, beans and peas into your chart and remove lettuce if you have a serious interest in representing the food carbon footprint per gram of protein of protein-rich foods.