farming and the environment

5 Things You Didn't Know about Your Dinner

A new report on farming and the environment reveals some interesting facts about the journey food takes from farm (or ocean) to table.

5 Things You Didn't Know about Your Dinner

Tomatoes taste good, but how good are they for the planet?

#2: Much of farmed salmon (44 percent) is thrown away. Food waste accounts for 20 percent of meat and dairy's environmental impact, and farmed salmon has one of the highest waste rates. Considering that it takes up to five pounds of wild fish to feed a pound of salmon, there are a lot of fish being pulled from the oceans to feed salmon whose meat just gets thrown away. To cut down on food waste, whether it be salmon or other forms of high-greenhouse-gas-emitting meat and dairy, buy as much as you know you'll eat, and freeze any leftovers (here are a few tips on freezing cheese).

#3: Meat and cheese have hidden costs. A four-person family skipping meat and cheese one day a week is the environmental equivalent of not driving for five weeks. Behind lamb, beef, and cheese production are the two most greenhouse-gas-emitting foods Americans eat. All the corn and grain grown to feed conventional cattle result in high levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And in some areas of the world, rainforests are being razed in order to raise more cattle. Such deforestation is the world's largest driver of climate change. One reason cheese generates such high emission levels is that it requires so much milk to produce it, and all that milk comes from gassy cows. Less-dense cheeses, such as cottage cheese, are less polluting.

#4: You can make beans less gassy, simply by cooking them using a pressure cooker. Most of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with meat are generated on the farm in the production of feed and the processing of the meat, whereas most of those associated with plant proteins like beans and vegetables are generated once you get them home, during the cooking and waste-disposal process. Using a pressure cooker cuts cooking time in half and reduces beans' greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent, the report found.

#5: Tomato season is great for the planet. This is probably the best news of the study. Of all the foods included in the analysis, only lentils ranked lower than tomatoes with regard to greenhouse-gas emissions. Just make sure you eat them! Waste accounted for a larger portion of plant-related emissions than meat's because decaying produce emits methane; 20 percent of tomatoes' emissions were attributed to waste. So eat, can, or otherwise preserve all those summer tomatoes before they go to waste!


Published on: July 22, 2011

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