According to research published in Nature Climate Change, consumers tend to greatly underestimate the carbon emission associated with food.
Food production contributes 19-29% of global greenhouse emissions, with the biggest contributor being meat. The inefficiency of meat production can’t be ignored either: It takes about 38 kilograms of plant-based protein to produce 1kg of beef, which translates to an efficiency of just 3%. For comparison, pork has 9% efficiency and poultry has 13%. Greenhouse emissions from food can be cut significantly by opting for more vegetarian or vegan meals.
To help consumers to make more environmentally conscious food choices, a potential solution has been found to be a “carbon label”, which translates greenhouse emissions into an easier to understand unit: equivalent number of light bulb minutes.
The label also displays the product’s relative environmental impact on an 11-point scale from green to red. A serving of beef and vegetable soup rates at 10 on the scale and its greenhouse emission is estimated to be equivalent to a light bulb turned on for nearly 36 hours. Volunteers who were shown the labels on soups chose significantly less beef and more vegetarian options.