Updated 12 August 2013

Which meat harms the planet most?

Lamb, pork, beef, chicken: which meats do the most damage to the environment?


Q: I'm not quite ready to give up meat, but I'm trying to cut down. Are there maybe kinds of meat that are less damaging to the environment than other kinds?

A: Yes, some meats are less damaging - though they're all pretty high in carbon emissions. Generally, in order from greatest to least emissions: lamb and beef are by far the most damaging, followed by pork, chicken and fish. Fish that needs to be transported long distances, for example some kinds of farmed salmon, may well be linked to higher emissions. (Read more on sustainable fish choices.) 

Cheese, it should be noted, also has a large carbon footprint, by some estimates higher than pork.

Good broad guidelines for green-minded meat-eaters are thus to eat meat less often and in smaller portions whenever possible (the most recent recommendation is to cut consumption by half), especially lamb and beef, and to buy from local sources. Meat-eaters and ovo-lacto vegetarians alike should also keep their cheese intake modest. 

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, Health24, December 2012 

Read more on meat-eating and the environment: Make Mondays Meat-Free

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