EWG Tackles Meat, Cheese and the Environment


Wherever we fall personally on the vegan-to-carnivore spectrum, North Americans are directly responsible for huge amounts of methane, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fuel consumption, feed, water, and manure. All are linked to our love affair with meat and dairy. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) wants us to be more conscious of the impact on our environment and our health.

EWG’s new report, Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health, follows on the heels of earlier reports that pegged meat eating to its environmental and  health costs (Livestock’s Long Shadow, Have Your Meat and Eat It Too!, Livestock in the Balance). The guide’s key advice: Eat less meat and cheese. Make greener choices.

The reports uses lots of clever and startling graphics to bring its message home. The Eat Smart chart shows the carbon footprint of different foods, comparing them to the number of car miles driven per 4 oz. Tomatoes ranked low, at less than a quarter of a mile per 4 oz. Lamb was off the chart, ranking a carbon footprint that was 50% higher than beef (which came in at just over 6.5 miles).

Meat Lifecycle: From Cradle to Grave is an interactive chart that shows climate and environmental impacts at every step of the meat and dairy supply chain. Anyone confused by some of the terminology will find help Decoding Meat + Dairy Product Labels, such as “cage-free,” “certified humane” and “rBGH-free”.

Although the message is not new, Meat Eater’s Guide brings it together in a convenient and user-friendly form. Reaction has been swift and largely favorable, though the editor of Drovers CattleNetwork labeled the report and the positive responses, “anti-meat chatter” in an editorial with the headline, “Meat grower’s guide to hogwash and B.S.”

With a burgeoning world population increasingly hungry for the meat-and-cheese diet beloved in North America, status quo is not a sustainable option. EWG’s new Meat Eater’s Guide comes at a critical time in the discussion.

Related Care2 Stories:



Photo from Cathryn Wellner


William C
William C2 months ago


W. C
W. C9 months ago

Thank you for the news.

Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Dale Overall

Dianne D comments: "Heavily tax all meat and dairy purchases to offset the cost." She states that: "Those that don't eat meat or dairy shouldn't have to pay for the problem." Intriguing. For those who have no children does mean no taxation for schooling the children of others? A ridiculous concept along with the previous statement.

While some equate meat eating with being a member of a leper colony. Trying to stigmatize omnivores won't work. I eat small amounts of meat as one only requires a portion the size of a deck of cards. Also love nutmeg but we all know (or should) that eating a whole one will result in death.

Not all meat eaters obtain food from factory farms. The vegan mantra to refrain from meat is tiresome. Wait another 30 years when Monsanto totally corrupts plant life on the planet...cross contamination by their seeds will result in no truly natural plant life to eat.

Elena T.
Elena P5 years ago

Thank you

heather tinnaro
heather tinnaro5 years ago

After 25 years of vegetarian and often veganism, this year I began to eat meat again. I don't eat vast quantities of it, nor do I buy it from CAFO supporting groceries. All of the meat my family consumes comes from within 100 miles, usually 10 or so. I make most of our cheese myself from raw milk, also sourced within 100 miles. For another take on meat-eating and the environment, find works by Joel Salatin and Sally Fallon. Theirs is an interesting counterpoint to the years and years of pro-vegetarian information I ingested. If I still believed that meat was fatal and that soy would save us, I would never have fed it to my family. There is compelling information that the truth may indeed be quite the opposite. Is it really more healthy for us or for our environment to eat a boca burger produced thousands of miles away than it is for us to eat a chicken raised in our neighbor's back yard?

Kat Head
Katherine H5 years ago

I will definitely eat less dairy, already cut out meat

Brianna K.
Past Member 6 years ago

Thank you Cathryn :)

Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago


Dianne D.
Dianne D6 years ago

I don't want to be responsible for contributing to animal crueltry so I decided not to eat meat or dairy products and I'm doing great.