Can we cut back on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions simply by eating more beans? Although a childish rhyme would have us believe otherwise, one study shows that the answer is, yes.

A team of researchers at four American Universities has been looking into how we can change our dietary habits as a way to help combat climate change. According to their findings, if Americans replaced beef with beans, we could meet approximately 50 to 75 percent of our GHG reduction targets by 2020. Time to start learning how to make the best black bean burger you’ve ever made.


Is the beef industry really that big of a deal as far as environmental impact goes? Plainly put, yes.  Collectively, the animal agriculture industry is responsible for approximately 14.5 percent of GHG emissions (and some sources have estimated that it could be as high as 51 percent), but the cattle industry is responsible for 65 percent of those emissions. According to this new research, the production of legumes like beans and lentils results in one-fortieth the amount of GHGs as beef production. Not only that, switching from beef to beans would free up

Not only that, switching from beef to beans would free up 42 percent of U.S. cropland currently being used to grow feed for cows – that size of land would be roughly 1.6 times the state of California. This is especially significant considering one in ten Americans suffer from food scarcity and hunger, according to The Hunger Site.

To put that in a little bit more context, it takes around 10 crop calories to produce a measly three beef calories, so there is a gross inefficiency inherent in a food system that prioritizes, and subsidies, the production of animal proteins over plant proteins.

While we already knew the environmental impact of our appetite for meat, dairy, and eggs, it’s always good to have more research backing those claims. The team’s head researcher, Helen Harwatt, PhD, believes this evidence can be used in a real push for change.”Given the novelty, we would expect that the study will be useful in demonstrating just how much of an impact changes in food production can make and increase the utility of such options in policy,” said Harwatt.


Let’s think of it this way, if we had the technology available to provide healthy, sustainable food to the people who need it most – why wouldn’t we use it? In this case, not only does this technology exist, but chances are you probably have it laying around your cabinet already.

On a global scale, we simply cannot afford to continue ignoring studies like this one that point us to a readily available solution to our two largest problems: climate change and world hunger. As Nil Zacharias, co-founder of One Green Planet has said, we need to learn how to “eat in a way that nourishes us without starving the planet.”


The good news is, it’s never been easier to eat this way. Not keen on beans? No problem — try meat alternatives! Not only are there more choices for meat alternatives than ever before, research has shown that meat alternatives produce 10 times less GHGs than beef. Or, try making your own meat-free alternatives. Make this protein-rich seitan and then try it out in this 10-Minute Seitan “Beef” and Broccoli Stir-Fry or this Mongolian “Beef.” Either way you go, eating for the planet has never been more important. But thanks to meat alternatives, it has also never been easier — or more delicious.

To learn more about how you can create positive change with your food choices, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement.


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Lead image source: Simple Bean Burgers With Paprika Garlic Sauce