Swap beef for beans for ‘huge impact’ on climate change, say experts

Read Time:   |  25th May 2017

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Swapping beef for beans at mealtimes could achieve three quarters of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, according to new research.

greenhouse gas

A team of scientists from four leading American universities found that by making this one simple dietary change, the US could achieve between 50-75% of their greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2020, making a ‘huge impact’ in the fight against climate change.

Beef production is responsible for 40-times the greenhouse gas emissions of legumes. British environmental nutrition expert Dr Helen Harwatt, who led the research team, believes this means a shift towards plant-based foods is necessary to meet environmental targets and avoid climate catastrophe.

“This research demonstrates the huge impact of changes in food production – the US, one of the top emissions-producers, can achieve more than half of its greenhouse gas emissions goals by simply substituting one food for another,” Dr Harwatt said.

“The scale of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to avert catastrophic climate change doesn’t allow us the luxury of ‘business as usual’ eating patterns. We have no option but to make dietary changes and eat foods with a much lower climate impact, like beans instead of beef.”

Replacing daily protein from beef could be achieved with only 121g (around half a can) of cooked beans,* and since beans are among the most nutritious and cost-effective foods, it would appear to be a clear win for consumers and the environment.

Director of ProVeg UK, Jimmy Pierson, said: “This research has given us a quick and easy solution to climate change – the power is on our plates! It’s so empowering for individuals looking for an effective way to reduce their impact on the planet. It’s as simple as choosing beans over beef.

“It’s not only an environmental necessity, swapping beef for beans is also extremely beneficial to people’s health. Beans are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, packed full of protein, fibre, and antioxidants. They are also the cheapest form of protein – what’s not to love?!”

On this side of the Atlantic there appears to be strong support for such a move towards plant-based eating. A DEFRA study** revealed that 85% of people surveyed said they will change or will seriously consider changing their eating habits for the planet.

Journal Article: Substituting beans for beef as a contribution toward US climate change targets

* Figures based on daily beef consumption in the US.
** DEFRA (2011) Attitudes and behaviours around sustainable food purchasing. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Report (SERP 1011/10). April 2011


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