The Carbon Footprint Of The Foods We Eat Does Matter For Our Future

The Lempert Report
September 06, 2021

Earlier this month the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published one of the most comprehensive reports based on the analysis of more than 14,000 scientific studies warning that unless change happens quickly the world is headed for further climate disruptions for centuries to come.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement following the release of the report that it is a “code red for humanity.” 

The food we consume does play a role in mitigating climate change. Discussions on food waste, plant-based everything, reducing petroleum based (and wasteful) packaging, the inefficiencies of transportation as well as the impact on various food groups abound. One recent report, The Life Cycle Assessment of Proteins (sponsored by The Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers) caught my attention as it compared the carbon impacts of beef, chicken, pork, plant-based meat (Impossible Burger brand) with wild Alaskan pollock. The reason the report piques my interest was that today, wild Alaska Pollock is used as an ingredient in over 1,000 foods – from fish tacos, sandwiches, and prepared foods. Dr. Craig Morris is the CEO for GAPP and led the Carbon Impact project partnership that analyzed three years of millions of lines of data; a huge undertaking as Alaska is the largest Wild caught fishery in the world for human food. The data included every aspect of the supply chain from flying fishing boat crews back and forth from Alaska, to what the crews ate, to the transportation (including diesel and refrigerant usage) to, in his words “being able to say with confidence, what we inherently knew to be true, that we had a very climate friendly protein.” The Carbon Impact Comparisons are:

  • Wild Alaskan Pollock    3.77 kg
  • Chicken                        12.5 kg
  • Pork                             19.65 kg
  • Plant-based Meat          20.83 kg (Impossible Burger)
  • Beef                            115.75 kg

The findings are based on the CO2-eq per kilogram of protein as of July 14, 2021.

It is time we realize the correlation between those foods that are good for our bodies and good for the planet; and when you do, there is little doubt that seafood, and it appears that those fish from Alaska top the list to accomplish both.