In global diets, meat is not necessarily the main driver of dietary carbon emissions, finds a new study published in One Earth. Instead, factors like higher sugar and alcohol consumption, and dining out more frequently, could be an unrecognized source of carbon emissions in modern diets.
Looking at Japan, a team of British, Japanese, and Norwegian researchers on the new paper carried out an analysis on the diets of over 60,000 households spread across the country. This intensive survey revealed that families whose diets had the highest carbon footprint weren’t actually eating more meat than others.
Instead, this higher emissions profile could be explained by greater consumption of fish, vegetables, sweets, alcohol, and eating more frequently at restaurants.
In fact, meat consumption was almost identical across the population the researchers studied – and interestingly, the differences in emissions couldn’t be explained by other social factors such as age, sex, or household income.
What makes the results more surprising is that in Japan, food consumption is largely in line with broad international dietary recommendations for climate mitigation: the typical Japanese diet tends to include more fish and vegetables, and less red meat. Yet despite this, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a low-carbon diet.
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