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New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, conducted in collaboration with scientists in the United States, compared the environmental costs of various foods. The team looked at the five main sources of protein in the American diet: dairy, beef, poultry, pork, and eggs. Their idea was to calculate the environmental inputs – the costs – per nutritional unit. The environmental inputs the team considered included land use, irrigation water, greenhouse gas emissions, and nitrogen fertilizer use. When the numbers were in, including those for the environmental costs of different kinds of feed (pasture, roughage such as hay, and concentrates such as corn), the team developed equations that yielded values for the environmental cost for each food. The study found that eating beef is more costly to the environment by an order of magnitude – about 10 times on average – than other animal-derived foods, including pork and poultry. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



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