Think Eating Local & Organic Combats Climate Change? Think Again.

Think that eating local, organic food is helping combat climate change? Think again. In the past few weeks, a couple of articles have come out calling organic production into question. Last week, CBC News published a piece claiming organic, local food really isn’t that great. And the Guardian later came out with an article reassuring readers that the world could eat organic – but only if we adopt a plant-based diet.

I’ve talked in the past about my pessimism surrounding organic food. Organic production methods often require more land, more fertilizer, more “natural” pesticides…and consequently more fuel consumption, in exchange for lower yields. Of course, if you believe that organic food is better for your health, this might not matter as much to you. But there IS a tradeoff. Organic cultivation will always produce lower yields, particularly for some of the crops humanity relies on the most, such as corn and wheat, although some organic crops – like beans and legumes – are nearly the same (about 5% lower yield vs. an average 25% for cereal grains).

But grass-fed beef and other animal products are much worse for the environment than their conventional counterparts. This makes good sense, unfortunately. Feeding a captive animal grain and not allowing it to exercise yields a heavier animal more quickly than more humane surroundings. Of course, it is completely inhumane to the animals, bad for human health and still terrible for the environment. But, if we’re simply looking at the numbers, grass-fed beef generates approximately 19 per cent more emissions per kilogram than grain-fed beef…The higher land use and tendency for higher GHG emissions in grass-fed beef stem from the lower macronutrient densities and digestibility of feeds used in grass-fed systems (Clark and Tillman, 2017).

So, bottom line: if you want to eat organic food, go ahead. But don’t do it in the misguided belief it is going to drastically reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to make a significant change, the best thing you can do is eat a plant-based diet. It’s good for you, the planet, the animals, and even the economy.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

%d bloggers like this: