Contrary to claims by vegetarians and the activist groups that promote their world view, eating a vegetarian diet could add to climate change rather than reduce it.

USDA recommendations are a political and cultural tool along with being efforts at better health, but their recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is actually more harmful to the environment, because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie, finds a new study that measured the changes in energy use, blue water footprint and GHG emissions associated with U.S. food consumption patterns.

We suffer from agriculture that works too well, of course, so environmentalists and vegetarian allies have insisted that more plants would get our weight under control and have a positive effect on the environment - by reducing energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by approximately 9 percent.  Growing, processing and transporting food, food sales and service, and household storage and use take a toll on resources in the form of energy use, water use and GHG emissions.

Yet a new analysis shows those "healthier" foods -- fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood endorsed by political bodies -- increased the environmental impact in all three categories: Energy use went up by 38 percent, water use by 10 percent and GHG emissions by 6 percent.

"Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon," said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy. "Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken."

Citation: Michelle S. Tom, Paul S. Fischbeck, Chris T. Hendrickson, 'Energy use, blue water footprint, and greenhouse gas emissions for current food consumption patterns and dietary recommendations in the US', Environment Systems and Decisions 24 November 2015, DOI: 10.1007/s10669-015-9577-y. Top image: Authority Nutrition