Have you gone Paleo? You might be killing the planet one steak at a time, says a new study from Oxford University. Researchers found that the more meat you eat, the bigger your carbon footprint—the total amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as a result of your existence.
According to the stats, carnivores are twice as bad for the environment as vegetarians in terms of food-related carbon footprints. Vegans can rejoice, though, because they were found to be the least harmful to the planet.
So how can Paleo be that bad if its focus is on all whole foods? To arrive at this conclusion, researchers first separated more than 65,000 people into six dietary groups—high meat-eaters, medium meat-eaters, low meat-eaters, pescetarians, vegetarians, and vegans. They then devised a system that estimated greenhouse gas emissions caused by the consumption of certain foods and from there monitored the participants.
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Ultimately, the link between emissions and diet is rooted in how much energy it takes to produce the food you eat. Meat is the harshest on the planet because it takes more energy to raise animals versus plants. Not to mention we’ve all heard that cows’ back-ends emit harmful gases into the atmosphere, and it’s actually true. The methane that cows release is even more potent than carbon dioxide.
While Paleo-heads are definitely leaving more of a footprint than their vegan peers, the moral of the story here is that diet does have a small impact on the planet. You don’t need to stop eating meat altogether if it works for you and is a part of your healthy diet. However, the key is moderation. Like the research suggests, the more meat you eat, the greater the effect. Let’s be real, there are bigger fish to fry in the fight against climate change (we’re looking at you, power plants and automobiles).