High carbon footprint families identified by sweets and restaurant food, not higher meat consumption

University of Sheffield

  • Families with high carbon footprints consume two to three times more sweets and alcohol than those with low footprints
  • Study by experts in Sheffield and Kyoto, Japan, found meat consumption explained less than 10 per cent of difference in carbon footprints
  • Researchers recommend carbon taxes on sweets and alcohol

Families with higher carbon footprints are likely to consume more confectionary, alcohol and restaurant food, according to a new study published in One Earth.

Considering the spectrum of traditional to urban lifestyles across Japan, researchers at the University of Sheffield and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan, analysed the carbon footprints of the diets of 60,000 households across Japan’s 47 regions. Using a life-cycle approach which details food supply chains around the country, they found that meat consumption was relatively constant per household – but carbon footprints were not.

The study shows that meat consumption could explain less than 10 per cent of the difference seen in carbon footprints between Japanese families. Instead, households with higher carbon footprints tended to consume more food from restaurants, as well as more vegetables and fish. However, it was the level of consumption of sweets and alcohol – two to three times higher than families with low carbon footprints – that really stood out.

Meat has earned a reputation as an environmentally damaging food, with beef production emitting 20 times more greenhouse gases than bean production for the same amount of protein.

However, the researchers caution against a one-size-fits-all policy after finding that the consumption of sweets, alcohol and restaurant food adds to families’ footprints in a larger capacity than other items. Eating out was found to contribute on average 770 kg of greenhouse gases per year for those households with a higher footprint, whereas meat contributed just 280kg.

Associate Professor Keiichiro Kanemoto of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan – who led the research – said: “If we think of a carbon tax, it might be wiser to target sweets and alcohol if we want a progressive system.

“If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprints, then our diets must change. Our findings suggest that high carbon footprints are not only a problem for a small number of meat lovers in Japan. It might be better to target less nutritious foods that are excessively consumed in some populations.”

Kanemoto does, however, recommend eating less meat to reduce a household’s environmental impact. “Meat is a high carbon footprint food. Replacing red meat consumption with white meat and vegetables will lower a family’s carbon footprint,” he said.

Japan’s population is one of the oldest in the world, a trend that many industrial countries are following. This suggests that successful policies for dietary change and energy efficiency in Japan could act as models for many countries in the coming decades. The Japanese also have a relatively healthy diet, which is frequently attributed to them having the world’s longest lifespan by country.

Dr Christian Reynolds from the Institute of Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield, one of the study’s co-authors, said: “Due to wealth, culture, and farming practices, different regions in a country consume food differently. Japan alone has some prefectures with more than 10 million people and others with fewer than one million. These regional and income differences in food consumption are also found in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US.

“All countries are facing challenges in how to shift diets to be healthier and more sustainable. This evidence from Japan demonstrates that research can help us to identify what to focus on. The same patterns of dietary change in terms of sugar, alcohol and dining out need to be considered in the UK, Australia, the US and Europe.”



Full study available under embargo here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bxzVxBUM7yw4lgkDjn0YTwJI_cnitNSv/view?usp=sharing

Institute for Sustainable Food

The Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield brings together multidisciplinary expertise and world-class research facilities to help achieve food security and protect the natural resources we all depend on.

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A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

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From EurekAlert!

85 thoughts on “High carbon footprint families identified by sweets and restaurant food, not higher meat consumption

    • People can eat only so much. Rich people don’t eat that much more than poor people. Of course, they might pay a lot more but that doesn’t actually translate into more actual calories.

      Actually, rich people are more likely to get ripped off on pretentious restaurant meals that don’t actually taste as good as a plain old hamburger.

      It used to be that rich people were fat and poor people were thin. It hasn’t been that way in the developed world for a long time.

      • “More likely to be ripped off”? Not if they are buying excellence in the preparation and quality of the experience. I am neither rich nor a restauranteur, but I have been more ripped off by low end restaurants that try to pass off shoddy service and an unappetizing product. Rich people do have a greater range of choices, and have earned the right to ‘waste’ their money as they choose.

      • We all know that you can prove whatever you want with statistics.

        The Japanese traditionally eat very little meat , mostly preferring fish, which probably comes from having little spare land and being surrounded by water.

        So why draw conclusions about meat eating by studying a largely non meat eating society?

  1. “Families with high carbon footprints consume two to three times more sweets and alcohol than those with low footprints”

    Challenge accepted.

    • Challenge accepted.

      Nice one.

      The UK though is a Viper Pit of people campaigning against every conceivable ‘sin’, always related to ‘climate emergency’ of course.

      ‘Sin’ being everything one would normally campaign against, barring actual temperature change. This type of ‘science’ has become a joke. It is simply jumping on the bandwagon in order to promote your pet campaign. If this is ‘science’ then …

      I can find a hundred ‘scientists’ that believe that I should give up ‘coffee’ due to ‘climate emergency’. Previously they were members of ‘scientists’ against coffee. ‘Scientists’ can just go blow themselves.

      • Note that neo-Communists don’t want to ban outright what they do not like, they want to TAX what they do not like.
        If specific foods, energies, etc. are so bad, then why don’t they want them banned completely?
        It’s all a front.
        It’s truly about money & power.

        • In the UK there’s a sugar tax.

          Officially called the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), the tax puts a charge of 24p on drinks containing 8g of sugar per 100ml and 18p a litre on those with 5-8g of sugar per 100ml, directly payable by manufacturers to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
          Now it can be taxed doubly, like VAT on fuel duty, UK government has a track record of taxing taxes.

    • An artificial nonsense, now being used by the elites to extract money from the poor. Anybody using the term other than jokingly should be indicted.

    • It’s the marks left behind after you walk through the oil that drained from your car because your forgot to replace the oil pan plug before pouring in 5 quarts of fresh oil.

      • however…you only do that ONCE 😉
        best I know of a mate managed to forget oil AND trans plugs when refilling
        I gather the shed floor never did look the same

    • An impression left by a carbon-based foot. There are also handprints. Imprints left by diverse, an estimated seven billion globally, people. A motive to recycle the demand to decarbonize our societies.

    • Greg Woods: it’s a pseudo-scientific concept devised to try and scare the public and to extract more government grants for useless so-called research by people who claim to be scientists. 🙂
      “Families with high carbon footprints consume two to three times more sweets and alcohol than those with low footprints” – what absolute claptrap, to use a fitting old term which doesn’t get used much these days.
      University people are being paid for coming out with rubbish like this? – amazing!

    • “What is a carbon footprint?” GREAT question!

      How is it determined? By whom? Based on what? Where have you seen entire populations being ordered to a mandatory sit-down with “researchers,” inventorying their posessions, following them around and filling out 300-page surveys detailing every minute aspect of their lives since birth? Because that’s about what it would take to even begin to form any kind of database standardizing one’s “carbon footprint.”

      This is nothing more than a buzzword–a made-up concept which at best is capable of inducing wealth guilt in the gullible, and at worst is a turn-key mechanism for totalitarian control of every aspect of our lives. We need to push back hard against this, and PUSH BACK NOW!! Before we wish we had.

      • I’ve been asking myself the same question. Although I’m concerned about carbon particulates (actual pollution), CO2 shouldn’t be part of the equation.

        Please show me a well-controlled and designed study (that can be replicated) of actual emission-related carbon particulates in the U.S.

    • What is a ‘carbon footprint’?

      6BB graphite pencil scrubbed all over your shoe sole … Then take a walk.

      It could be ‘us’ giving Life another 30 million years by our activities of the last hundred years.

      I’m going to start 160.org. The point where all life ceases!

    • Notice how they try to equate carbon, C, a solid, with CO2, a gas.
      As if we’re emitting chunks of charcoal instead of plant food.
      It’s called … lying.

    • It’s what your feet leave behind after accidentally stepping in coal dust, oil, or other carbon based product.

  2. Put an extra tax on my beer or my burger, and we’re going to have problems.

    But in my family, the same one with the biggest sweet tooth actually WANTS a bigger carbon footprint, especially carbon that has been under extreme heat and pressure, mounted in a nice platinum or gold setting.

    “My wife said she wanted to go carbon-free, so I sold her engagement ring.” (rim shot. I’ll be here all week.)

    • If you are going to be here all week then your wife won’t have to look far to find you and dispense the punishment she thinks you deserve.

  3. It’s not about the environment, it’s about bossing people around. That’s why all the solutions are political, not scientific.

  4. More self-parodying EurekAlert! drivel.

    The Japanese seem to be particularly pious about their CC religion.

        • Since fish only eat locally-sourced foods, never eat beef, and except for the occasional flying fish, never use air travel, I suppose their carbon finprint is small.

          • Farmed fish? The horror! I was of course only referring to natural, organic, non-GMO, free-range, cage-free, fair trade, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, gluten-free fish.

          • But they are Gill-ty
            Gill pollution of the ocean with acidifying CO2, similar to lung-sourced carbon pollution of the atmosphere, which makes lecture halls hot and stinky.
            If they weren’t such great restaurant fare with vegans, we would consider fish as equally hazardous to the environment as cows presently rank.

  5. Researchers recommend carbon taxes on sweets and alcohol

    Oh did they really, I thought that taxation was a function of government function not academia.

    • the list of the unis sponsors iteslf is a real eyeopener…
      lot of “interested” parties there all vying for social kudos while at the same time being massive money spinners selling crap

  6. “The Japanese also have a relatively healthy diet, which is frequently attributed to them having the world’s longest lifespan by country.”

    Shouldn’t that be the other way round: “The Japanese also have the world’s longest lifespan by country, which is frequently attributed to them having a relatively healthy diet”? It would make more sense.

  7. Some comments have slammed this study.
    It has been prepared by “experts”.
    Notes state that the 29,000 students at Sheffield U. are the “brightest” although it is not stated that they joined in writing the report.
    And the university is ranked in the country’s top five for “Student Satisfaction”.
    So there!
    The way people eat causes “carbon footprints”. You’ve got to believe it.
    Do you need an ultra-violet light to see them?

  8. I’m thinking that there must be something that these government people know to be taking such a risk with the population’s well being with all this weather dependent stuff.
    I mean they are supposed to be the bright guys ?
    On the other hand I’m thinking that there might be an error thinking about the Earth as a closed system.
    You’d think that billions of years of feedback and adjustment would have created a stable climate rather than actual ice ages.
    So it seems likely that it is external forces that we can’t do anything about that are making the Earth climate.

    • The closed system argument occurred to me some time ago. I think that’s one of at least several errors upon which GHG theory and CAGW theory are based,

      • The biggest errors are the atmospheric sensitivity to CO2 doubling and CO2 extinction in the atmosphere (and more pertinently the ocean).
        There is also the issue of how much humans actually contribute to the total current level.
        All of these are non-empirical guesses by folks who have acquired considerable academic tenure and a comfortable career by forwarding the notion that there is a single control knob of global temperature, and therefore all subsequent climatic paradigms.

  9. The whole of life on Earth is built around carbon.
    When are we going to stop this nonsense about carbon foot prints?

    Like anthropogenic climate change, it’s a gigantic scam created out of ignorance,fear and greed.

    When do we ever have have intelligent politicians? Me me me!

  10. article: if we want a progressive system.

    Carbon footprint, something to tax.

    There is another way to look at this. Western civilization created the modern world.

  11. If the University of Sheffield was as great as they claim to be they would realize the claptrap that is human caused climate change. I realized it years ago and I am not that bright.

  12. Are grants still available to measure personal CO2 generation/activity? I thought they had moved on from that false belief that CO2 has any measurable effect on climate? Oh well, still time to get my application in then. I want to establish if those who live in tropical paradises, are higher CO2 generators that those who live in colder climate areas.
    To establish the merit of my thesis, I need to live in one of the tropical paradises for at least five years.,.

  13. How about a carbon rebate, to thank all of us whose CO2 emissions are contributing to the greening of the planet with it’s commensurate increase in food supply which has spared millions from starvation. And which will hopefully can insulate the planet from the bitterest of the cold as it suffers the results of declining solar output.

    • When there are too many administrative services that essentially do the same things and waste money, the solution is to double the Office of Committee Reform with the Secretary of Redundancy Removal, managed by the Chief Officer of Simplification under the supervision of an Anti-complexity General Secretary. Any conflict between their responsibilities will be solved by the Redundancy Reduction Disambiguation Service. The whole thing will be managed by the Simplification Task Force, counterbalanced with a Office of Administrative Stability and Avoidance of Rapid Change.

      They will make a list of 10 administrative services that may be unnecessary, propose the removal of 5. At the end 3 will be repurposed, the suppression of two will be discussed for a few years and one will be completely removed (while 3 have been created in the same time).

  14. “Researchers recommend carbon taxes on sweets and alcohol.”

    Taxpayers recommend defunding of freeloading activist political “researchers” who contribute nothing of value.

  15. Meats, sweets, alcohol…amazing how it is always “vices” that pull double-duty as climate changers.

  16. It seems to be an aspect of human nature that some people have to find something to feel bad about. We are lucky to be living in a golden age. Even countries that are at the very bottom of the ladder are at least getting onto the first rung. The climate bed wetters are 100% wrong. The climate is becoming progressively more benign, in total opposition to their predictions.

    There also seems to be an aspect of human nature that means that some people can’t resist the urge to control other people’s lives. This really needs to be identified as a serious character flaw so that anyone showing signs of it can be correctly labelled as a pariah and not be allowed into any position of influence.

    Climate Change Alarmism has been the perfect vehicle for both types to further their negative agendas.

  17. also, one would think this would set the stage to lay off meat consumption, but we all know they will try to ban alcohol and candy now, as well as meat.

    • To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s observation regarding governance: If it’s appealing, tax and regulate it out of reach of the public. And if it draws insufficient public interest, subsidize it beyond all usefulness. That’s the ‘sustainable’ formulation.

    • note white meats ok?
      so factory farmed intensive energy using highly concentrated feeds with commensurate energy use to make n transport, pollution from concentrated poop ponds and piles , heavier than natural drug n antibiotic use meat, is just dandy?
      but grass fed beef is bad?
      because they ASSUME all beef is also CAFO grain fed muck I guess?
      6 week old mutant chickens and penned porkers are in no way a cleaner option

  18. Sheffield has links to the Grantham Foundation and recently received £1.7million from them for its embedded Grantham Institute for sustainability.
    The personnel there are fully on board with the messages from Greta and Extinction rebellion :

    -“Our Director Tony Ryan explains why a new paper by Peter Horton and Ben Horton vindicates Greta Thunberg and Extincton Rebellion’s calls to listen to the scientists.
    Why evidence vindicates the Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg by Grantham Centre Director Tony Ryan
    “I’m currently teaching a new Chemistry in a Sustainable Future course to 1st year undergraduates and I’ve recommended they read Re-defining Sustainability: Living in Harmony with Life on Earth. In this paper Peter and Ben Horton lay out the scientific consensus behind Greta Thunberg’s message ‘listen to the scientists’.
    The paper builds on scientific evidence to challenge the widely held human-centric view that we have the right to exploit everything on Earth. In doing so the Hortons present a vision that vindicates the ambitions of Extinction Rebellion.
    We in the Grantham Centre challenge the belief that sustainability can be delivered through exploiting nature in a smarter way and controlling it better. Because we need to live in harmony with all life on Earth by respecting the land, the oceans, and the atmosphere from which everything we hold dear derives.””-

    • But Sheffield University has research partnerships with those companies well known for their zero carbon footprints Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Boeing

  19. A few years ago wife and I saved money to afford having high quality insulated replacement windows installed on the house. This has made a dramatic difference in our energy bills here in central Texas. We are saving money on our electric bill and using less energy has decreased our ‘carbon footprint’.
    With the extra money saved we often go out to eat on Saturday evenings. But this has increased our ‘carbon footprint’.
    We better open a bottle of wine and contemplate what we are doing.

  20. First they came for my sugar. Then they came for my butter. Then they came for my cakes. Now they come for my alcohol. That’s where I draw a very red line. I speak as a Viking.

  21. Is it the case that sweets and drink are actually causing the carbon footprint, or are they just associated with it?

    Because richer people tend to live higher up than poorer people, and will have higher footprints, so you might as well tax the altitude of their houses…

  22. If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprints, …

    I assume the thing of interest is Carbon Dioxide. I am in favor of it and prefer an increase.
    Besides, roasting stuff over an out-door fire is a good time thing.

  23. You can also think out of the box of the propaganda. You can use carbon footprints to measure the carbon cycle. UN has stated carbon neutrality as a target. So, if you have more cows, you have to grow more grass to suck more CO2 from atmosphere to feed them. If you use hydrocarbon fuels, you can balance that by capturing that carbon into persistent plastics.

    In left’s mindset cognitive dissonance is not a problem. Ideas may be inconsistent because you take money from many special interest groups that compete against each other.

  24. I could not find out ( even in supplemental pdf) what original post study meant by “confection” which the subjects consumed in order to calculate the load said confection contributed. My understanding is the Japanese don’t consume a lot of very sweet tasting items & so can not see how “sugar” confections would be a high driving factor. I wonder if the confection carbon footprint contribution is mostly just due to small unit packaging of
    nibbles & less the actual ingredients of Japanese confections .

    Anyway, I did get a chuckle out of the report’s concluding section explicitly mentioning that organic produce gives two times the carbon footprint as non-organic produce. I guess the virtue signalling of the “don’t panic, it’s organic” proponents must take a hit for Gaia’s sustainability.

    • In Japanese shops I have seen vast arrays of sweets, both the traditional ones and western-style. So I suppose somebody will consume them.

  25. What utter drivel: “Japan’s population is one of the oldest in the world, a trend that many industrial countries are following.”

    Japan’s population is one of the oldest in the world, –> Japan’s people is one of the most longevity people in the world,

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