May 2022

Which diet is best for saving the planet?

Two recent New Zealand studies have helped answer that question.

Member comments

Get access to comment

Carole & D G H.
14 May 2022
Plant based protein foods

Could consumer do a comparison of the plant based protein products already on the NZ market

David C.
09 May 2022
The data needs to be more thought through.

The graphic would be more informative it it listed carbon costs per unit of nutrition rather than by raw weight - for example, what is the carbon cost per gramme or kilogramme of protein? Items that may take lot of energy to produce may also very nutritionally dense - but the data presented doesn't allow that to be seen, so it's not that useful.

We also waste astronomical amounts - hundreds of thousands of tonnes - of food. What would be the carbon benefit of, say, halving that?

https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/What-is-known-about-food-waste-in-New-Zealand.pdf

Jill Ford
09 May 2022
Nutritional values

To reduce my carbon emissions I eat meat no more than 2 times a week max. Whilst eating lots of pulses, vegetables, grains and dairy.
However, red meat is high in iron - which our bodies/and brains need, especially in children and for those doing lots of exercise. And haeme iron - found in meat is much more easily absorbed , as well as in much great quantity, than non haeme iron.
Calcium is also extremely impt for our bones and I gather osteoporosis is higher in people whose diets are traditionally low in dairy.
Vegans and vegetarians invariably have to take supplements to compensate for low iron intake, lack of vit B6 and calcium.
As humans we evolved as meat eaters and this allowed us to develop large brains. So maybe our bodies need some animal protein???
I have travelled extensively and animal protein is still very much in demand, especially in those countries where poverty has meant that meat wasnt eaten often.
And height and muscle mass increases in the population at large as incomes increase and with it accessibility of animal protein.
So whilst its impt to reduce our carbon emissions, its also impt to be healthy and as a mature woman my lower oestrogen levels mean I need high calcium intake to help prevent osteoporosis. Easily found in dairy products.

Looking at the increased size of portions now eaten by kiwis and the amount of food waste, which unless composted produces methane, we could easily reduce our carbon emissions by eating smaller portions and wasting less, without everyone going vegan. This would also reduce our appalling rates of obesity which is now a major health crisis.
I recommend the web site - www.lovefoodhatewaste.org.nz

Gecko K.
09 May 2022
Vegan diet - socioeconomic disparity

One think that keeps me from a vegan diet really is the socioeconomic disparity. It's not cheap, especially in NZ. Planting your own garden takes time, it takes a house (i.e. a plot of land that you cultivate that will always be yours), and it requires money. I hate when people say that if others would just grow their own food, they'd be fine - for what it's worth, agriculture has never been sustainable outside of government subsidies - what do you do when the crops aren't there?

One of the things I've realised lately as I've been looking into this is that a lot of the vegan food assumes a North American (or Northern European) environment for growing food. Nut milk is hugely wasteful for example. I feel that NZers in particular aren't given all the information - assuming that if you can buy it at a supermarket then that's that

Joan C.
08 May 2022
Choices

I class myself as a flexitarian and probably have at least two days a week without red meat manly because I have a very productive vegetable garden and my own hens. However, I do question how ‘green’ it is to produce things like almonds which consume enormous amounts of water and are then turned into ‘milk’. Somewhere there is a balance and it’s not easy to negotiate. Good information though so thank you Consumer.

Peter J.
09 May 2022
In Reply

Okay, maybe I should have used "very insignificant number of 0.06", but the argument stands that the figures do not reflect the reality when you look at the production emission figures for say, Cauliflower, broccoli & beans of 1.15.
Nut production was a separate point, same as using tinned/canned tomatoes and not raw tomatoes, which, in my opinion, would have been more helpful, and accurate. As a further point, I struggle to understand emissions for the production of burger/hot dogs are so much lower than beef. Doesn't make sense to me.

Peter J.
08 May 2022
More balance please.

Garlic, leeks etc have no impact to produce? Sorry, not so, and this colours the rest of the information. There is no measure of the impact of production for most of the vegetable items.
We know nut production takes a huge amount of water. Vegetable production requires machinery and fertiliser, seemingly blissfully ignored, except when it came to animal farming.
Methane only exists in the atmosphere for 30 years, CO2 - a very long time.
Unfortunately while these studies may be useful, they do not appear to be comprehensive enough to be accurate.

Glenn B.
08 May 2022
Quoting incorrectly

Where does it say onions and garlic have 'no impact'? And mixing them up with 'nuts' is disingenuous. Not liking the conclusions doesn't make these studies inaccurate.

Mark G.
08 May 2022
A note on methane

It's not all about time in the sky. The total warming impact of methane is much greater than that of CO2, even comparing over 100 yrs.

Kathryn N.
21 May 2022
nut milk

In the States, bees are transported to pollinate huge almond orchards. Many bees die and the areas they come from are denuded of bees. When they are transported home mortality of bees continues to be far higher than normal, attributed to chemicals, (almond growers in the US use higher rates of chemicals than many other crops, spread of disease because the bees are highly concentrated in the almond groves and because they may have weakened immune systems. So almond milk although with a lower carbon footprint is still posing other risks to the environment. Nothing is straightforward.

Neil P.
08 May 2022
Love it but can you answer 2 questions?

I really appreciate this article and will use the information to inform our family’s eating.
Why is there a huge difference between milk and cream (both you get from milking a cow)? And why are bananas (usually imported) better than other fruit we grow in NZ?

Edit S.
08 May 2022
Small steps matter

Thank you for the relevant and comprehensive article. It is good to see actual scientific data that is relatable. Hopefully in the future there will be some database available where we can easily compare the total carbon cost of food products.

Joan P.
07 May 2022
Cost of Vegan Diet

I take issue with the cost of a vegan diet as stated in the article. My husband and I have a wholly vegan diet and have so for many years. Our food bill reduced when we switched to vegan. On average we spend just over $100 a week for the two of us and this includes quite a few organic products. We do grow a lot of our own fruit and veggies and cook mostly from scratch. If Kiwis are spending so much on food, it's no wonder we have an obesity problem.

Paul J.
07 May 2022
Yes but...

It's great you've got some support from your green thumbs but I couldn't have gone plant based without paying a bit more for food in the CBD. I do think it's more expensive but as it's now more common for supermarkets to stock popular plant based alternatives, I think it will get cheaper. If we could just bust that fresh food duopoly...

Marama M.
07 May 2022
Cost of vegan food

A vegan diet is much cheaper than a meat based diet if you go to Bin Inn and buy lentils and beans dried and then soak and cook them. If you buy vegan processed food at the supermaket, like 'sausages' and 'burgers' its going to be costly but you dont need these to be healthy.

Phil P.
07 May 2022
Another attempt to provide options, information and choice

People can buy what they like and eat what they like. Having options researched for you helps you to make up your own mind and make your own choices. Of course you can also (and should) do your own research. Thank you Consumer for once again delving into a complex and topical (and obviously emotional) consumer issue and giving a concise summary. Keep up the good work!

Dwayne B.
07 May 2022
More attempts by Consumer to dictate to real consumers

Consumer needs to learn that attempts at social engineering are not welcome and not appropriate.

Don't tell us what to eat or how to live - it's absolutely none of your business.

Edit S.
08 May 2022
They are providing information

It says "tips", not "you must" so it is not even the intention of dictating. Many of us are consciously trying to make more sustainable food choices, and welcome well supported information, such as this article.

Mark G.
08 May 2022
An excellent graphic

I found the chart showing emissions for common foods in the NZ context very informative and, even better, it informs action. We've known for a long time that red meat has a high carbon footprint but this quantifies it in an accessible way. It was also very helpful to see the comparison of staple carbs such as rice vs pasta. I was actually pleasantly surprised that milk's emissions were that low, as I do enjoy my breakfast cereal.

This is the type of work I have been encouraging Consumer to do in the annual survey and am pleased to see a job well done. I certainly didn't construe the article as attempted social engineering. Obviously these inconvenient truths are uncomfortable for those New Zealanders whose livelihoods and/or lifestyles are tied to NZ beef, lamb, and dairy. It is what it is.