Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No, Eating Bacon is Not Better for the Environment than Eating Lettuce

Recent news headlines highlight yet another example of media sensationalism rather than properly vetting a poorly designed study. No, that one study from Carnegie Mellon does not show that eating plants is worse for the environment that the standard American diet (SAD).
Yes, every other major _properly designed_ study done by credible organizations like the UN, FAO, DGAC, EWG, etc. is still valid shows that the more plant-based we eat, the less environmental impact.
The CM study is just a rehashing of the calorie per calorie approach of comparing lettuce vs. bacon which makes absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the majority of news reporting of the CM study does not bother to highlight this glaring study flaw and most people who read the news won't go beyond the headlines.
The author of the study concludes:
“My bottom line is that there are no simple answers to complex problems,” Fischbeck said. “Diet and the environmental impact of agriculture … is not a simple problem.”
That statement is so utterly misleading.  Of course, science is complicated.  That's why we use science to help us figure out how to solve complicated problems.  But this kind of statement is akin to saying 'why even try to solve a problem, it's all so big and complicated.'
But if you actually read the study, and come to your own conclusion you would see that:
the researchers didn't find that vegetarianism is bad for the environment. They found that not every plant product is more environmentally friendly than every meat product on a calorie per calorie basis
Furthermore, the study quite oddly does not actually look at healthy vegetarian diets.  They define the healthy diet as consuming a lot of dairy and fish!  Of course, we know how the inclusion of dairy and fish is extremely energy intensive and unsustainable.
I'm left a bit puzzled what the CM researchers were after when they did their analysis in such a biased way. Or maybe they were just looking for rationalization to continue to cling to unsustainable bad habits?
Fortunately some columnists were quick to point out the obvious flaws:
If you hear an omnivore try to convince you that eating meat is better for the environment, check out the links above for the logical rebuttals.  Better yet, have them watch Cowspiracy. 

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