The average food carbon footprint, including carbon footprint chicken, for a lower-income household, is between 10-30% of the overall footprint.
The vast majority of emissions produced during food production are CO2, N2O, and CH4, which are mainly caused by agricultural activities.
But, how does the carbon footprint of chicken compare to that of beef, or tofu? Use this calculator to find out now.
Meat production causes far higher emissions and has a much deeper carbon footprint compared to grains or vegetables, because of inefficient practices relating to plant/animal energy conversion.17
In addition to this, the animals that provide products such as meat and dairy, produced around 175 million metric tons of carbon emissions (enteric methane), in North America during 2020 (a single year).
This complete guide explains how comparisons of amounts of carbon footprint, chick, beef, and soy products work, and how you can use food delivery carbon offset programs to erase those emissions.
Related Reading: Food Carbon Footprint Calculator: Find Your Diet Emissions & Eat Green
Carbon Footprint Chicken
The general belief is that beef products should be replaced with chicken, to reduce food carbon emissions. However, this logic is flawed because of several overlooked statistics:
The extreme carbon footprint of beef, especially in the US, has caused a downward trend in beef consumption. In turn, chicken consumption has increased from 28 pounds per person (1960s) to 94 pounds per person by 2018.
Other countries followed suit, and the global chicken consumption rate increased by 31% between 2000-2011. During the same period, beef consumption increased by a mere 13%.
Carbon Footprint of Chicken
The carbon footprint of chicken might be small compared to beef (still), but it is still devastating to the environment:
Carbon footprint chicken: Carbon emissions caused by a single serving of chicken (poultry) are estimated to be at least 11 times higher than a single serving of beans.
This indicates that while substituting meat with chicken does have a lesser impact on the environment, the poultry industry’s contribution to climate change and pollution cannot be ignored.
The carbon footprint of chicken plays a big role in the following:18
- Climate change
- Water and air pollution
- Destruction of natural habitat
- Increasing dead zones in world oceans
- Loss of species
- Degradation of land1
Chicken Carbon Footprint Per Kg
The chicken carbon footprint per kg is as follows:
1 kilogram of chicken equals 6.9 CO2 emissions. This is equal to driving 16 miles in a gas-powered passenger car.2
|Food Type||Carbon Emissions Per Kilogram||Car Miles (equal to food emissions per kilogram)|
|Lamb||39.2 CO2 per kg||91 miles|
|Beef||27 CO2 per kg||63 miles|
|Cheese||13.5 CO2 per kg||31 miles|
|Pork||12.1 CO2 per kg||28 miles|
|Turkey||10.9 CO2 per kg||25 miles|
|Chicken||6.9 CO2 per kg||16 miles|
|Tuna||6.1 CO2 per kg||14 miles|
|Eggs||4.8 CO2 per kg||11 miles|
|Potatoes||2.9 CO2 per kg||7 miles|
|Rice||2.7 CO2 per kg||6 miles|
|Nuts||2.3 CO2 per kg||5 miles|
|Beans/Tofu||2.0 CO2 per kg||4.5 miles|
|Vegetables||2.0 CO2 per kg||4.5 miles|
|Milk||1.9 CO2 per kg||4 miles|
|Fruit||1.1 CO2 per kg||2.5 miles|
|Lentils||0.9 CO2 per kg||2 miles|
What Is the CO2 Equivalent to One Pound of Chicken?
A common question regarding the CO2 emissions of chicken production is, what is the CO2 equivalent to one pound of chicken?
A single pound of chicken produces 1.1 pounds of CO2.
Carbon Footprint Calculator: Carbon Footprint Chicken
For poultry farm owners,19 a chicken carbon footprint calculator may come in handy. When attempting to lower the carbon footprint of chicken production, the carbon footprint chicken must first be calculated.
This relies on the following data:
- Total amount of energy consumption and fuel use
- Total number of chickens
- How manure is disposed of
- How waste is managed
- Type of woodland area
- Chicken mortality rate
- Duration of lay (eggs)
- Type of bedding (and amount of bedding)
- How much water is used
- Transport (from the farm to the wholesaler)3
Studies have indicated that poultry farms will always differ according to carbon footprint size, which is why carbon footprint calculators20 are so valuable. Individual fields for accurate calculations require the following inputs:
General information required:
- Type of birds (poultry)
- Number of birdhouses
- Number of birds per house
Energy consumption information used:
- LPG (in gallons) (including current figures and projected figures)
- Diesel (in gallons) (including current figures and projected figures)
- Natural gas (ccf) (including current figures and projected figures)
- Electricity (kWh) (including current figures and projected figures)
This information provided then calculates the emissions for the different categories, according to the different types of greenhouse gases, including CO2, CH4, and N2O.4
Carbon Footprint: Chicken and Eggs
The subject of a carbon footprint chicken, includes the carbon footprint of eggs.
The largest part of the carbon footprint of eggs is caused by embedded emissions in chicken feed (concentrate feed). This is responsible for around half of all carbon emissions.
Carbon Footprint of Eggs
The carbon footprint of eggs is estimated as follows:
A dozen eggs produce 2.7kg of CO2. This is equal to the CO2 emissions caused by milk production.
Global egg production has doubled since the early 1990s, and with the rise in egg production comes a heavier carbon footprint.
Carbon Footprint of Free-Range Eggs
The carbon footprint of free-range eggs21 is as follows:
1kg of protein from free-range eggs is responsible for 0.2kg of CO2. 63% of free-range egg emissions are embodied carbon inside the chicken feed.
Environmental Impact of Eggs
The good news is that the egg industry has implemented measures to reduce its environmental footprint over the last 50 years. It has done so by improving the following:
- Providing better quality chicken feed
- Improving disease control,
- Using advanced chicken housing systems
- Cutting down on natural resource use.
The environmental impact of eggs has been decreased, by increasing hen supply by a minimal 18% to supply US demand that increased by 72% (over 50 years).5
The below table indicates the countries with the highest egg carbon footprint per capita:
|Country||Carbon Footprint Per Capita|
|Japan||17.6kg of CO2|
|China||17.2kg of CO2|
|Mexico||16.8kg of CO2|
|Ukraine||16.5kg of CO2|
|Belarus||14.5kg of CO2|
Conversely, the below table indicates the lowest egg carbon footprints per capita:
|Country||Carbon Footprint per Capita|
|Togo||0.8kg of CO2|
|Madagascar||0.65kg of CO2|
|Congo||0.5kg of CO2|
|Ethiopia||0.3kg of CO2|
|Niger||0.28kg of CO2|
Related Reading: 18 Meat Carbon Footprint Facts: The Emissions of Every Meat Type
Carbon Footprint of Beef vs Chicken
When discussing carbon footprint (chicken and other meats), it is essential to include the subject of the carbon footprint of beef22 vs chicken.
While the American population has cut down on beef consumption (red meat), there is a substantial increase in chicken consumption. The average meat consumption per person in the US is around 224.8 pounds per year.
- Carbon footprint chicken: 2.9kg of CO2 per 50g of protein
- Carbon footprint beef: 17.7kg CO2 per 50g of protein
Which Has a Larger Carbon Footprint?
Looking at the above-mentioned CO2 emissions, it is clear that the answer to ‘which has a larger carbon footprint,’ is beef. But the issue isn’t as clear-cut as simply the number of CO2 emissions per gram of protein.
Environmental Impact of Chicken vs Beef
The environmental impact of chicken vs beef is far-reaching. For instance, arable land degradation (because of chicken farming) is at an all-time high. Other devastating impacts include:
- Deforestation: Grain grown for animals instead of humans equates to 8 pounds of grain for 1 pound of edible beef product. Not only is deforestation continuing, but the grain grown on the resulting piece of land would have fed more people than the beef resulting from beef production.
- Air and Water Pollution: Chicken farming (poultry farming) is responsible for huge amounts of waste in the form of manure, old feed, and chicken carcasses. While manure is used for fertilizer, a lot of it is not absorbed by the land and ends up in rivers and streams. This causes nitrogen and phosphorous in the water which kills aquatic creatures. In addition to this, local communities in the vicinity of chicken farms are at risk of breathing in severely polluted air (dust and ammonia), which poses serious health risks.
- Animal Abuse: Sadly, chickens are the most abused animals on Earth, because of terrifying torture and slaughter methods. Furthermore, it takes 134 chickens to produce the same amount of meat as a single cow, which means the abuse continues on a much higher scale.6
Carbon Footprint of Beef
The average carbon footprint of beef is 1g + 221g of CO2 emissions.
It is almost four times higher than the carbon footprint of chicken, and up to 100 times the carbon foorint23 of plant-based food.
Carbon Footprint of Beef Per Kg
The average carbon footprint of beef is 36kg of CO2 emissions per kg. This figure excludes the impact of methane.
The following table indicates the carbon footprint of meat consumption per capita:7
|Country||CO2 Footprint Per Capita|
|Israel||67.1kg of CO2|
|Trinidad and Tobago||62.6kg of CO2|
|Hong Kong||58.9kg of CO2|
|US||53.7kg of CO2|
|Brazil||48.3kg of CO2|
Conversely, the below table indicates the countries with the lowest meat CO2 footprint:
|Country||CO2 Footprint Per Capita|
|Malawi||1.5kg of CO2|
|Rwanda||1.4kg of CO2|
|Niger||1.2kg of CO2|
|Ethiopia||0.7kg of CO2|
|Kenya||0.5kg of CO2|
Meat Industry CO2 Emissions Percentage (Carbon Footprint Chicken)
Of all the countries around the world, Argentina has the largest CO2 footprint due to meat consumption: 305.81kg of CO2 per person per year.
In contrast, the country emits a mere 7.94kg of CO2 per person for non-animal products, which means that Argentina has the power to make the biggest positive impact on the climate and environment by switching to a plant-based diet.
Argentina forms part of the huge meat industry CO2 emissions percentage:
- 14.5% of human activity-related CO2 emissions.
- This is equal to 7.1 gigatons of CO2 per year.8
Carbon Footprint of Meat and Dairy
The carbon footprint of meat and dairy (milk) is broken down as follows:9
Carbon Footprint of Milk
The carbon footprint of milk is estimated as follows:
- 1.39kg of CO2 per liter (dairy)
- 0.42kg of CO2 per liter (almond)
- 0.88kg of CO2 per liter (soy)
In the USA, a gallon of milk24 is the equivalent of 17.6 pounds of CO2. Dairy production in the US is responsible for 2% of the country’s total CO2 emissions.10
Related Reading: Beef And Dairy: Carbon Offset
Simple Carbon Footprint Calculator
A simple carbon footprint calculator based on food consumption, requires the following inputs:
- Average meat consumption per year (pork, beef, veal, poultry) in pounds, divided by 52 weeks.
- Water usage in the US (gallons per pound of meat – including tofu, beef, veal, poultry, pork).
- CO2 production in pounds per pound of meat – including tofu, beef, veal, poultry, and pork.
The equations are as follows:
Water consumption = Meat consumption (per year in pounds) x Water usage to produce 1 pound of carcass weight (meat).
CO2 consumption = Meat consumption (per year in pounds) x CO2 usage to produce 1 pound of carcass weight (meat).
Substituting meat with tofu reduces water consumption. Previously determined water consumption based on 100% meat consumption is multiplied by the proportion of meat replaced by tofu:
Water saved in pounds = Water used when meat is consumed x proportion of tofu (%)
The amount of water needed for tofu production is then subtracted:
Water consumption (production of tofu) = Meat consumption (per year in pounds) x proportion of tofu (%) x 111 gallons (US).11
Carbon Footprint of Meat vs Vegetables
The carbon footprint of meat vs vegetables is indicated as follows:
The average American diet produces 2.5t of CO2 emissions per person every year.
This figure fluctuates according to the type of diet:12
|Type of Diet||Carbon Footprint|
|Meat-Based Diet||3.3 tons of CO2 per year|
|Average Diet||2.5 tons of CO2 per year|
|No Beef Diet||1.9 tons of CO2 per year|
|Vegetarian Diet||1.7 tons of CO2 per year|
|Vegan Diet||1.5 tons of CO2 per year|
Carbon Footprint of Vegan Diet
A comprehensive study has revealed that the carbon footprint of a vegan diet can reduce a person’s food CO2 emissions by as much as 73%.
Based on this, it is estimated that if every person in the world ceased their consumption of meat and dairy products, the area of land required for agriculture and food production could be reduced by 75%. To put this figure into perspective, it is the combined land area of the EU, USA, Australia, and China.
Furthermore, the remaining land would still be sufficient for food production.13
Carbon Footprint of Tofu
Tofu has been around for 2,000 years. It is a great source of calcium and iron and contains no cholesterol.
In addition to these benefits, the carbon footprint of tofu is 0.70kg of CO2 emissions per ½ cup, which means that the total footprint of tofu (CO2 emissions) is around 12.5 lower than beef.
It must be noted however that tofu can also impact the environment negatively. It is estimated that tofu made from soybeans grown in the deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest, will produce double the carbon emissions of chicken production. This is based on a carbon footprint chicken estimate that includes chickens being fed from a different source (soya, but not from the Amazon).14
Food Carbon Footprint Calculator
A food carbon footprint calculator can be used to determine the overall carbon footprint of tofu:
½ cup of tofu x 365 = 0.70kg of CO2
This is the equivalent of 7.6 gallons of gas.
Another calculation is as follows:
½ cup of tofu x 365 = 6.87ft2 of land per cup. (This means that the land use relating to tofu is at least 40.4 times lower than that of a single beef burger.)
The water savings of tofu is estimated as follows:
½ cups of tofu x 365 = 7.12 gallons (per ½ cup). This is the equivalent of 17.3 hours in the shower and 2.598 gallons of water. Tofu water use is estimated to be at least 9.5 times lower than that of a single beef burger.15
Fish Carbon Footprint
The global fish carbon footprint is indicated as follows:
100g of fish = 0.73m3 of CO2 emissions.
A recent study indicates that seafood, including fish, has a lower carbon footprint25 than red meat, chicken, and dairy (mainly cheese).
The above chart highlights the amount of CO2 emissions per food protein source:16
How To Reduce Food Carbon Footprint
Learning how to reduce food carbon footprint and implementing measures to keep the food carbon footprint as low as possible, is vital.
Considering that food transport is responsible for only 6% of emissions (across the EU) and dairy, meat and eggs are responsible for 83% of emissions, it is clear that global diets must change, not necessarily shopping habits (shopping local).
Best Carbon Footprint Calculator
There are carbon footprint calculators26 available for online use, depending on the data being calculated and its location.
The best carbon footprint calculator for different applications is listed as follows:
- CoolClimate Calculator (US): Main categories of household consumption.
- WWF Footprint Calculator (UK): Main categories of household consumption.
- CarbonFootprint.com Carbon Calculator (For countries that do not have location-specific calculators): Main categories of household consumption.
- Conservation International Carbon Footprint Calculator (US): Main categories of household consumption but limited for food calculations).
- UN Carbon Footprint Calculator (US/UK): 3 out of 4 main categories of household consumption.
- TerraPass Carbon Footprint Calculator (US): 2 out of 4 main categories of household consumption.
- EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator (US): 2 out of 4 main categories of household consumption.
Carbon Footprint Calculator For Business
A carbon footprint calculator for business defines the different types of emissions:
- Direct emissions that can be controlled by a business
- Indirect emissions such as electricity purchases
- Indirect emissions that cannot be controlled by a business
Calculating a business carbon footprint over 12 months requires the following data:
- Total kWh electricity use (kilowatt hours)
- Gas use (kilowatt hours – natural gas)
- Water supply (supplied in cubic meters)
- Water treatment (treated in cubic meters)
- Company fuel use (company vehicles) (liters of fuel and mileage)
- Travel (distance via rail, road, or flight)
- Waste management (amount of waste in tons)
Food Carbon Footprint Calculator BBC
The best food carbon footprint calculators include:
- Vegan Society Carbon Food Calculator
- CoolClimate Calculator
- Zero Foodprint Calculator
- CleanMetrics Food Carbon Emissions Calculator
- WWF Footprint Calculator
- CarbonFootprint.com Carbon Calculator
- BBC Climate Change Food Calculator
The food carbon footprint calculator BBC estimates a carbon footprint based on the annual consumption of a specific beverage or food item.
This food calculator provides information and figures relating to the carbon intensity of diet choices and compares the carbon footprints of selected food items to other items in its category.
Carbon footprint calculators are essential for determining CO2 emissions based on different activities, especially food production activities. These types of calculators can also compare the footprints of carbon footprint chicken and carbon footprint beef emissions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Footprint Chicken
What Is the Carbon Footprint Chicken?
The carbon footprint of chicken is: 1.82kg of CO2 emissions per 100g of chicken. This is equivalent to 1m3 of CO2 gas and driving 9.3 kilometers in a gas-powered car.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Chicken Per Kg?
The carbon footprint of chicken per kg is: 12.27kg of CO2 emissions per kilogram of chicken.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Chicken vs Beef?
2.9kg of CO2 emissions for 50g of chicken protein.
17.7kg of CO2 emissions for 50g of beef protein.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Meat?
The carbon footprint of beef and lamb is 3x higher than the carbon footprint of chicken, fish, or pork and at least 24x higher than lentils and beans.
Furthermore, livestock is responsible for 18% of calories and 37% of protein on a global scale, but also produces more than 50% of the total global food CO2 emissions.
What Is the Beef Carbon Footprint Per Kg?
The average beef carbon footprint per kg is: 36kg of CO2 equivalent per kg.
What Is the Avocado Carbon Footprint Per Kg?
0.456kg CO2 equivalent per kg of avocados cultivated inside a greenhouse powered by renewable energy sources.
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