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Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food

The carbon dioxide emissions (carbon footprint) caused by our personal behavior is driven to a large extent by the type and quality of our food. The amount of greenhouse gases caused by the production of food differs very much from one food type to the other (see table below). Worst is meat and in particular beef.

A environmental friendly and "climate change friendly" nourishment is characterised as follows:   

  • Very little (or no) meat
  • Eat primarily organic food
  • Saisonal food is preferred
  • Regionally produced food is preferred


CO2-Emissions (in g CO2e per kg food):

Food groupFood
CO2-Emissions (in g
per kg food)
Meat and sausagesBeef13’300
Raw sausages8’000
Ham (pork)4’800
Milk- and dairy productsButter23’800
Hard cheese8’500
Quark (curd)1’950
Farmer cheese1’950
Baked goodsBrown bread750
White bread



The production of 1 kg beef causes about 13.3 kg of CO2. The same quantity of CO2 is released when you burn about 6 liters of petrol!


CO2e means "CO2 equivalents" 

Source of data:
Pendos CO2-Zähler: ISBN: 978-3-86612-141-6 (The book is written in German language)


ΞCarbon dioxide | Carbon footprint | global warming solutions

23 thoughts on “Eat less meat: CO2 emission of our food”

  1. CO2 emission of food

    Thank you for this table. It saved me a lot of time.

    Please add more products ot this list!

  2. awesome

    saved me a huge amount of time, i had been finding bits and pieces around the web for various products but none in one table, if ONLY i had found this first!

    oh well, I have a few others i found across the web (figures are in kg CO2 per kg of product):

    Beef 36.4

    Chicken 4

    Pork 4.8

    Eggs 1.9

    Milk 1.4

    Cheese 8.5

    Apple 0.55

    Potatoes 0.64

    Bread 4.5

    Wine 3

    researched extensively, dont know if you want to include them, but i double checked most sources

    1. Is CO2 output affected by production method?
      Surely there is a difference between beef from intensively-farmed, corn-fed, barn-wintered cattle and from low-intensity, grass-fed cattle?

      For example, here in New Zealand, beef cattle stay outside on grass all year round and are not fed corn products – therefore they’re not consuming as much petroleum-derived food as corn-fed cattle.

      Thanks for the great site, though.

    2. Sources?
      I’d love to include your info in a paper I’m writing. What sources did you use for the information on Potatoes?

  3. I have a couple of
    I have a couple of questions. Why is is that beef causes so much CO2, while others cause lesser, is this because of the processing required to process the meat. Because here in India, they raise the goat naturally and hand slaughter it (the only co2 coming out would be from their breathing, (joke)), would this affect the environment. My second questions is what is the process required to make CO2 liquid, is it hard because we can store the Co2 and soon later find use for it. I also had an idea it might be silly, but it might just work, what if we can collect the CO2 in containers and store it under pressure. (similar to nuclear waste)

    1. the co2 output of beef is
      the co2 output of beef is mainly due to the food which the cows need (will be less, but still a lot, for goats) and also because they produce a lot of methan (don’t know how much goats are furting). and of course it is the industrialized preparing of the food and the transport.

  4. Total production process or merely during perishing?
    Do these #’s refer to the entire amount of CO2 released during the foods production (Start to finish) or are the #’s merely while the food perishes?

    1. CO2 emissions of food production

      The numbers refer to the amount of greenhouse gases caused by the production of food. It is only for the production.


  5. Effects of Global Warming
    For every 1kg of beef meat you should feed the cow 7kg of grains. Only that reason alone is good to cut down meat consumption. As per to environmental and health aspects, it is well known that beef meat contains lot of cholesterol which is unhealthy. We should not be vegetarian, but cut the meat consumption and eat balanced vegetarian protein.
    Effects of Global Warming

  6. Carbon Consumption?
    This article shows how much carbon is produced per Kg of food, but does this take into account how much carbon is consumed in making the food? I am interested to know how much carbon is consumed per Kg of food before it is killed/harvested.

    I would have thought it would be a mostly closed system (carbon is added due to transport and processing). The growing of the plants absorbs carbon, the animals eat the plants, then excrete carbon (minus what they absorb into there bodies), which can then be absorbed again by the plants and so on.

    I have not been able to find an answer to this on the internet so far.

    (I asked basically the same question under “Are Cows Causing Global Warming?”)

    1. Carbon footprint of food figures
      Transportation to the consumer is not included. The above figures for the carbon footprint of food only include the production process.

  7. CO2 foot print per calorie rather than per kg
    one should relate this not to to the raw weight of the various products but rather calculate an index of co2 per calorie. meat and dairy products will in general provide you with a lot more energy per kilogram than vegetables or fruits.
    However, I suppose that the relation shown by your data will still hold, though it will be less extreme.

  8. how much food or what
    how much food or what quantity of food are you talking about? is 1 kg white bread compared to 1 kg of cheese.



    1. How much food for 1 kilo.
      Dear Sir the best way to se it is to calculate how much energi there is in 1 kg of beef. If it is fatree the calc. is about like this : beef has 20% protein, so there are 200 g protein in 1000g of beef (fatfree) -> 1 g of protein holds 4,2 calories so 4,2×200 is 840 calories.
      This is aprox. 10% of what you have to give animals and humans to gain 1 kg meat. In this case 8-9000 calories. It is a huge amount of food, but if we give them groving fields………


  9. 1Kg Almonds = ? KgCO2e
    Does anybody know the KgCO2e of the production of almonds?

    1. You misunderstood
      You obviously misunderstood the concept you cited. Breeding animals does release a lot of extra CO2 to the atmosphere.

  10. butter co2 emissions
    there should be a mistake on butter… according the french ADEME data calculation makes 2700g/kg. decimal error?

  11. So a yearly consumption of
    So a yearly consumption of beef is the equivalent of just one tank of petrol. Can we all relax now.

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