Over the years, Americans have shifted their dietary preferences, whether they cut out meat completely or participate in the occasional meatless Monday. In a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the environmental group found that Americans have cut down on their beef consumption and it could ultimately benefit the environment.
According to the NRDC, producing one kilogram of beef emits 26 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Because of the dietary changes found in the survey, the NRDC reported that Americans have shrunk their per capita diet-related carbon footprint by 10 percent. The reduction in carbon emissions resulting from the drop in beef consumption alone was roughly equivalent to the annual tailpipe pollution of 39 million cars.
In addition to cutting back on meat consumption per capita, Americans also reduced consumption of milk, pork, shellfish, and high fructose corn syrup, which helped produce a decrease in emissions. However, while there was a decrease in eating some foods, there was an increase in some other “carbon-intensive” foods such as cheese, yogurt, and butter.
In the study, the environmental group said that different foods can have different impacts on climate change. For example, during cows’ digestive process they emit “large volumes of methane,” a pollutant 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
Despite the decrease in beef consumption, the United States was reported as the world’s third largest per capita consumer of beef and veal in 2011, behind only Argentina and Uruguay.