Eating Less Beef Goes a Long Way Toward Cutting Carbon

Between 2005 and 2014, Americans drastically cut their beef consumption and, as a result, reduced their per-capita diet-related climate-warming pollution by approximately 10 percent. They thereby avoided approximately 271 million metric tons of climate-warming pollution. That’s roughly the equivalent of the annual pollution of 57 million car tailpipes.

During this period, Americans purchased 19 percent less beef. Eating less of this red meat avoided an estimated 185 MMT of climate-warming pollution—roughly the equivalent of the annual tailpipe pollution of 39 million cars.

Americans, however, can still shrink their diet-related carbon footprint even further. Pollution could have been cut even deeper had Americans not simultaneously increased consumption of other carbon-intensive foods like cheese, yogurt, and butter. Furthermore, beef still comprises approximately 34 percent of total diet-related per capita climate-warming pollution in 2014, the last year for which data is available. We can do better, but the good news is that we’re on the right track.