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Earth Science

Study Claims Lettuce Is "Three Times Worse Than Bacon" For GHG Emissions (cmu.edu) 340

davidshenba writes: Sticking to a vegetarian diet may not the best for environment — in fact, it might be harmful to it. According to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas emissions per calorie. "There's a complex relationship between diet and the environment," Ph.D. student Michelle Tom said. "What is good for us health-wise isn't always what's best for the environment. That's important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future." As you might suspect some find the study dubious at best.
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Study Claims Lettuce Is "Three Times Worse Than Bacon" For GHG Emissions

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  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @08:46PM (#51134197)

    Subject says it all. Editors, this is literally your job. Don't give equal time to obvious lunatics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The title is about lettuce, the article that "debunks it" says that vegetarians will not eat only lettuce. So the title is correct.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @04:34AM (#51135621) Homepage

        The article "debunking" it also claims moral high ground for it's author. Not ironically, the author actually claims that. The author actually uses the argument that she is right because she is better than other people.

        • I know! I can barely stomach such holier-than-though, condescending statements such as

          I wear second-hand leather, eat marshmallows made with cow hoof glue, and just last week I had a Starbucks latte in a paper cup. (Yeah, you heard me.) I'm not claiming to be morally righteous; I'm not claiming to be perfect. I'm a human being, and if I contradict myself then, very well, I contradict myself.

    • by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @09:09PM (#51134331) Homepage

      Since lettuce has far more water than calories, that's not much of a surprise. You'd have to eat a mountain of lettuce to get the same caloric intake as a couple of rashers of bacon. But few people eat lettuce for the calories; vegetarians often get most of theirs from nuts, mushrooms & soy, for example - none of which appear to be covered in the study

      eating a vegetarian diet could contribute to climate change

      Sure, but less so than most diets involving meat (disclaimer: not a vegetarian). The study also includes dairy foods and even seafood, which seems odd for a vegetarian diet but maybe bolsters their desired conclusion (cheese in particular is pretty GHG-intensive). The result seems to be more useful for fuelling misleading media quotes like the above, than for making informed decisions.

      • by Guybrush_T ( 980074 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @09:35PM (#51134453)

        Yeah. Big news : mushrooms are 0 calories, so they're emitting *infinite* greenhouse gas per calorie. I'm surprised there is not an infinite quantity of greenhouse gas on earth.

        Oh, wait, because we're not trying to get even 1 calorie from eating mushrooms !

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In fact, IF you'd THINK about the amount of energy used in collection, transportation, and preparation of a vegetarian diet, and consider how much you have to eat to get the calories and nutrition you need to survive then consider the calorie density of BACON, it's quite plausible that the entire process of putting bacon in your belly requires the generation of less greenhouse gases per calorie than it takes to put lettuce inside you.

      Because calorie wise, 4 oz of bacon is like 4 KG of lettuce. And the lett

      • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @09:53PM (#51134551) Journal

        You're ignoring the debunker's point, which is that meat-eaters don't just eat bacon, and vegetarians don't just eat lettuce.

        In order to compare the environmental effects of diets, you need to do a full inventory of the foods in them, not just a comparison of two items.

        • You're ignoring the debunker's point, which is that meat-eaters don't just eat bacon...

          I would, if my wife would let me.

          I, for one, am willing to accept this study's results at face value.

        • That Archie Debunker, always after the Meatheads!
      • I agree lets start will all the brown people.

        There is a huge amount of land that hasn't been agriculturalized yet. We still can make enough food. I agree we don't really "need" to have as many people as we have but I think we are more than able to produce for them. The problem is growing land and population density doesn't always align very well. People want to live in cities but we need rural to grow the food. Etc. Things get complicated really quick.

    • Bacon is even better for the environment than the study suggests, because you getting a heart attack will cut your carbon emissions to zero.

      • by serbanp ( 139486 )

        Were you aiming for Funny points? Because as a serious statement it's just a stupid one, along with the idea that a low-fat diet is healthy.

    • They ignore the real villain: Water causes FAR MORE CO2 emissions per calorie than bacon. It is so large that we can't even quantify it.

  • Ha (Score:5, Funny)

    by liqu1d ( 4349325 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @08:47PM (#51134209)
    nasty vegetarians try to take my precious.
    • Re:Ha (Score:5, Funny)

      by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @08:57PM (#51134265)

      The simple fact is that if animals weren't meant to be eaten, then they wouldn't have been made out of food. Besides, there is plenty of evidence that shows that animals are, in fact, delicious.

      • Re:Ha (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @09:05PM (#51134315)

        Not only that, they provide a concentrated source of necessary nutrition, some of which is really hard to find in just plants...

        Can you Say vitamin B12?

        However, even though I'm not a vegetarian, or a vegan, or an environmentalist who's into saving the world from global warming, Count me one of the folks who hold this study in low regard.... If you set out to arrive at a conclusion, it's always possible though careful weeding out of the data you use. Just ask the global warming crowd..

        • Not only that, they provide a concentrated source of necessary nutrition, some of which is really hard to find in just plants...

          If I feed an animal 2000 corns/kg over its lifetime, then consume the animals flesh and gain the energy content equivalent of 100 corns/kg, then each kg is indeed concentrated. But it is also an extremely lossy way of using that corn (or its originating land area).

          • Or, you could let ruminants eat their natural food (grasses and other vegetation) and then kill it after it's been a great lawnmower and soil improver for an adequate amount of time, say 1500 lbs worth of time.

            • It blows my mind how many people don't understand the food chain. I don't know if they don't teach it anymore, or if people are just so stupid they never quite absorb the information despite it having been taught. Claiming that people should consume more meats, or more vegetables, to avoid global warming is pretty fucking stupid at best. I am by no means a believer in "ID / Intelligent Design" (though if someone came up with a good "Moronic and Blunder Filled Design Theory" for the universe, I might buy
          • "If I feed an animal 2000 corns/kg over its lifetime ...

            ... then your greatest accomplishment is clearly having created a new unit of measurement, to wit,corns/kg.

        • "However, even though I'm not a vegetarian, or a vegan, or an environmentalist who's into saving the world from global warming, or very big on avoiding throwing random capitals in the middle of a sentence , Count me one of the folks who hold this study in low regard...."

      • Pro-tip: You're made of meat. Feel free to come over for dinner sometime, and leftovers.

        • You're made of meat. Feel free to come over for dinner sometime, and leftovers.

          You're going to have to trim off a lot of fat.

      • One of my favorite Shoe comics has Shoe telling the waitress he doesn't want any vegetables with his steak because "vegetables is what food eats."

        The truth is, if vegetables were meant to be eaten, they wouldn't be made out of carbohydrates.

        And damn /. would respect the "ads disabled" checkbox and stop showing me ads.

        • "The truth is, if vegetables were meant to be eaten, they wouldn't be made out of carbohydrates."

          I don't know about you, but I actually like the occasional carbohydrate.

      • Moreover, there have been some anecdotes from people who have witnessed some animals eat other animals. While sifting through the scant evidence, should we really rule out the possibility of the human animal doing what some other animals -- in the bosom of Mother Gaia -- might actually do?
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @08:56PM (#51134261)
    Best way to get you kids to eat vegetables.
  • Now, it's not always the case that the price of something corresponds to its resource use. But things that use a lot of resources tend to be more expensive. Food for thought.

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @09:00PM (#51134289)
    The paper simply cites that on a per calorie basis many vegtables like lettuce, cucumbers, celery, etc are worse for the enviornment. It's actually obvious because these foods have no nutritional value with respect to calories, yet require water and other resources to bring to the table. The same paper states nutrition rich plant materials are actually better. The "debunking" article is just a knee jerking response and addresses "issues" that were never brought up in the paper. What we need to help fix this planet are people that run off of logic, not emotions.
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      The paper simply cites that on a per calorie basis many vegtables like lettuce, cucumbers, celery, etc are worse for the enviornment. It's actually obvious because these foods have no nutritional value with respect to calories, yet require water and other resources to bring to the table. The same paper states nutrition rich plant materials are actually better. The "debunking" article is just a knee jerking response and addresses "issues" that were never brought up in the paper. What we need to help fix this planet are people that run off of logic, not emotions.

      Maybe if the paper were not behind a $40 paywall, more people could read it and make more reasoned comments.

    • What we need to help fix this planet are people that run off of logic, not emotions.

      But then what will we talk about on slashdot?

    • I am a vegetarian, have been for over 2 decades now but not because I care for animals or some such nonsense. I am running an experiment on myself, my position is that it is a healthier lifestyle choice and I could not give any number of rats asses whether it is good or bad for the environment.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      What we need to help fix this planet are people that run off of logic, not emotions.

      How about we start by not saying "fix this planet" as if the concept of "fixing" the planet were serious?

      Perhaps it's just a short way of saying what you mean, but there are lots of emotion-driven arguments to "save the planet". But the planet is oblivious. And what we really need is a way to live the best lives we can -- for a definition of "we" that respectfully includes people in the future.

  • It does not make much sense to compare various foods so long as we overeat like crazy and throw away half of the food we buy. Start by making sure everyone lives within walking distance of a supermarket. Then people don't have to buy gigantic portions on weekly trips and have half of it get spoiled. Said daily walking trips will also help you lose weight, and then you don't need as many calories to sustain the bulk of your body. AND less greenhouse emissions from driving.

    • Start by making sure everyone lives within walking distance of a supermarket. Then people don't have to buy gigantic portions on weekly trips and have half of it get spoiled.

      The members of the Amalgamated Grocer's Union of Montana, Idaho, and New Mexizo loves you; Frigidaire hates you.

    • This sounds good, except for a couple things.

      First - how do you force the creation of supermarkets so that there is one within walking distance of everyone? Also, what is "walking distance" - 2 miles is walkable, that's probably a 30 minute walk.

      Second, I (and many people) don't want to spend a portion of my time every day foraging for food in the supermarket. I'd rather have one big trip a week than a small one every day.

      Third: There's this thing called a refrigerator. If you have food that spoils in the

  • Bacon sales down? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2015 @09:16PM (#51134367)
    Kind of like when wine sales are down, a scientific report is released about health benefits of occasional glass of wine.
    • "Kind of like when wine sales are down, a scientific report is released about health benefits of occasional glass of wine."

      Right, because the only time they would do this is "when sales are down". Companies have absolutely no motive to increase revenue when sales are not down. Thanks for the insightful conspiracy theory though!

    • Kind of like when wine sales are down, a scientific report is released about health benefits of occasional glass of wine.

      Since the recent terrorist attacks I have eaten rather a lot more pork than I usually do.

  • You're probably not reading the real news.

    If you want to eat your veggies and own land, grow your own. Local farmers markets also contain large amounts of inexpensive fruits and vegetables some of which are locally grown.

  • Think of how much acreage, water, and fertilizer is consumed to make iceberg lettuce. It conveys hardly any calories and simply gives you gas.
    • Think of how much acreage, water, and fertilizer is consumed to make iceberg lettuce.

      Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure I even know anyone who eats iceberg lettuce. I mean, maybe somebody who puts some red leaf or radicchio on a sandwich for crunch, but I get the feeling that the only people still using iceberg lettuce are fast food joints who put a wilted leaf on your nasty burger.

      • Now that I think about it, I'm not even sure I even know anyone who eats iceberg lettuce.

        Yet there is a whole wall of the stuff in every supermarket I've ever been in. Somebody can't live without it apparently, not just at the fast food places - the must have iceberg lettuce in their refrigerator. In the middle of winter, I can walk into the supermarket and pick up a head of iceberg lettuce, grown in California (I live in Massachusetts). What. The. Fuck? Why? Who needs this? People feeding their pet rabbits, what?

        Iceberg lettuce has NO redeeming value whatsoever. No calories to speak of, or vit

        • Yet there is a whole wall of the stuff in every supermarket I've ever been in.

          Have you noticed that the Wall of Lettuce keeps getting smaller? Used to be bins of iceberg heads, and now it's a much smaller part of a shelf of iceberg heads wrapped in plastic. It's wrapped in plastic because it's going to sit there longer. They don't wrap bunches of tasty vegetables like swiss chard or collard greens in plastic.

          Plus a larger section of the lettuce department is taken up with romaine and red leaf and green l

          • I think iceberg's days are numbered.

            I hope that's true. I'm just curious why it was given any days to begin with. I don't see how anybody could make money selling that crap, especially having gone through all the expense to grow and ship it.

      • Iceburg Lettuce is awesome for Tacos
  • I drink water (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It takes 1800 gallons of water to grow the food cows eat to produce one pound of meat. Plus what the cows drink. How many gallons of water does it take to grow a pound of lettuce?

    • This [nytimes.com] article has answers for you. Roughly, beef takes 40-80 times the water per pound than crops, but that the total water use. Pork requires roughly 11 times the "blue water" (from lakes, rivers, and aquifers) than veggies, beef about 13 time (in California).
    • All that water eventually gets pissed out and reused.
  • The world would be better with fewer people.

    Volunteers?

    Thought not. There's your problem.
  • WTF is this suposed to be??!? Some half-assed attempt to blurr the real issue? The new epitome of the Chewbacca defense? Seriously?

    Who the fuck cares about some marginal greenhouse gas per calorie consumed ratio when meat 'production' is proven to have an abysmal eco-balance-sheet over all??
    Water polution, megacorp-driven livestock food monoculture [overgrowthesystem.com], pathogens, the meat-industry driven anti-biotics disaster [youtube.com], etc.

    Water polution with meat production alone is actually close to that of a chemical plant.

    The truth is, no matter how you spin it, the eco-balance of meat production is abysmal. Period.

    Letuce is a filler - you don't eat it for calories. Calories per weight wise letuce is a serious underperformer.
    That's what potatoes or plant proteins are for. Or meat, if you prefer.

    More and more people are cutting back their meat consumption and vegan is the new vegetarian. Because our planet is going to hell and meat [dw.com] and its production has become [wikipedia.org] dangerous [wikipedia.org] for your [wikipedia.org] health [wikipedia.org].

    Bottom line:
    This article is meat industry propaganda non-sense and beyond pointless for any reasonable debate on the real issues of mass-meat production.

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