When you’re choosing between brands of food at the store, you may consider taste, packaging, and price. But products differ in other ways, too.

Poore: “There are 570 million farms around the world all producing different products on different soil in different climates. And we wanted to understand how that variability in production translates into differences in environmental impacts.”

Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford analyzed 40 types of food – from beef and eggs to tofu, grains, and vegetables.

Poore: “So right from the beginning – from the clearing of land for agriculture all the way through to the farm, transport, processing, packaging, and retail.”

The results varied widely, even within a single product category. For example, per pound of beef, some meat producers emit twelve times as much carbon pollution as others. For a bag of rice, the difference can be more than five times. And for coffee, sixteen.

Poore: “And that’s something we don’t know when we’re in the shops deciding what to eat or purchase.”

But he says, even the most sustainable meat products have a larger environmental impact than most vegetarian options. So a climate-friendly diet means more greens and grains in your cart.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...