Knowing the carbon footprint of eggs can help you lower your overall carbon emissions.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and you may be amazed to know that using eggs as a protein substitute for meat can reduce your food carbon footprint.
But, did you know that different grades of eggs have a different carbon footprint?
It’s true. Use this egg carbon footprint calculator to measure the emissions now.
This complete guide explains everything you might want to know about the carbon footprint of eggs, meat, milk, and other products, including how those emissions are measured and how various foods compare.
Contributing Factors of Dairy Carbon Footprint and Carbon Footprint of Eggs
Dairy/milk products are all food types, with milk as the main ingredient, which comes from cows, nanny goats, water buffalo, and ewes.6 It is one of the healthiest and most fortified drinks for vitamins and minerals, but there is one problem.
You may have to cut down on butter, cheese, and other milk products, given the reports of the massive carbon footprint from keeping dairy livestock. Slowing down meat but increasing dairy intake has the same effect since the two products come from the same source.
Livestock farming consumes a lot of farm inputs, including water for drinking and other processes, pesticides, and fertilizers, among other requirements. Dairy animals need the best care to keep them in good shape and increase the milk supply, which leads to a high carbon footprint.
Besides that, another worry is that livestock produces high levels of greenhouse gasses, especially the lethal nitrous oxide, which is hundreds of times more polluting than CO2.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Milk?
Milk production is a lucrative economic activity, further fueled by the high demand for the product. However, increased production equates to environmental impact given that milk comes from rearing livestock or animal agriculture which is a massive contributor to GHG emissions.
Typically, the total emissions from milk at the farm gate (when farmers sell directly to consumers) account for 2.4 kg CO2e for each kg of milk. This number also factors in GHG from processing and transportation. However, the rate varies based on the farming region and other related factors.
For instance, the carbon footprint of milk in North America and Europe is around 1.5 kg per kg, while the rate in Africa can reach 7.5 kilograms.1 Sub-Saharan Africa’s high rate is due to low milk production and poor livestock-keeping practices.
Carbon Footprint of Eggs: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Free-Range Eggs
Egg production has increased tremendously in the last decade, surpassing 68 M tons globally, and the European Union boasts 7 M tons annually.5 The high demand is because chicken eggs are excellent protein sources, most families can afford them, and they are multipurpose.
The carbon footprint of a dozen eggs is approximately 2.2 kg or 1.6 kg CO2e per kilogram of eggs if each egg weighs 60 g. One kg of proteins from free-range eggs is responsible for o.2 kg CO2e, which is significantly less than the carbon footprint of red or white meat.
63% of these levels are from the embodied carbon from the food consumed by chickens. While the eggs have a relatively lower carbon footprint, the emissions from soy and cereals, which are their primary feeds, have a high CF due to massive nitrogen release during production, transportation, and land use.8
Eggs are the ideal option if you are looking for a protein substitute instead of meat. Since the emissions are usually dependent on the feeds and farm inputs, organic eggs are better for the environment than free-range eggs.
However, the total carbon foot varies based on the source of the eggs and the chicken’s living conditions.
Cheese Carbon Footprint Estimation
Lamb is first on the list of the worst offenders in climate impact, followed closely by beef. Surprisingly, cheese is third in line for the food with the highest carbon footprint, surpassing chicken and pork and its dairy counterparts like yogurt and milk.
Its carbon footprint is about 13.5 kg per kilogram, making it several times more adverse to the environment than other animal products. Primarily, cheese is terrible for the environment because production requires a lot of milk (roughly ten pounds of milk for one hard cheese).
Milk already has a high carbon footprint and being the main ingredient for cheese makes the food worse for the environment. You must account for the cow’s methane production, nitrous oxide from the manure, and the grains that feed the cow.
One way to be mindful of the environment is to support local farming, especially organic farming, and sustainable industries that generate fewer emissions.9 Secondly, experts recommend eating less dense and low-fat cheese which has a lower carbon footprint and is also a healthier option.
You can also use a beef and dairy carbon offset to erase the footprint of your diet.
Estimation of Carbon Footprint of Tofu
Tofu is a vegetarian staple since it is entirely plant-based and highly nutritious. It packs iron, proteins, calcium, and other minerals and is a multipurpose ingredient for various recipes, mainly Chinese and Thai meals.
Tofu produces about 3.5 kg of carbon per 100 g, substantially higher than meat. Other studies show that packaged tofu emits about 982 g per kilogram of proteins and 1150 g per 1000 calories. Most carbon from tofu comes from its processing which is power intensive.
16% of the GHG from a 1 kg packet is from soybean production (tofu’s main ingredient), 52% from the manufacture, 23% from the packaging, and 9% from shipping and transporting.
Estimation of the Carbon Footprint of Chicken Per Kg
Eating chicken is an excellent alternative if you are a meat lover but are still careful not to affect the environment. The livestock generates fewer emissions than other standard meat options across all the phases of production, manufacture, and cooking.
Its carbon footprint is 6.9 kg of GHG per kilogram, explaining why many are gradually shifting from beef to poultry. This trend has developed since the late 1960s and is credited with the increased chicken consumption per capita from 28- 98 pounds.4
On the downside, as experts advocate for people to eat less meat, the focus is shifting to consuming more chicken meat. Americans are now eating more chicken than ever since they are more environmentally friendly, with rates as low as the carbon footprint of eggs.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Avocado?
Avocados are in trend right now and increasing in demand daily for food recipes and other uses.
The market for plant-based meals is rising, and the fruit is riding on the wave, as evidenced by the 11 Billion pounds consumed worldwide.
Their consumption in the US has risen steadily from 2001-2018, now standing at 8 pounds per capita. High demand has led to an increase in avocado’s footprint, particularly from the food miles.11 In 2017, 2 avocados were reported to generate 846.36 g of carbon, which is relatively higher than other fruits or plant-based meals.
Avocado also has a high water footprint, generating about 1800 m3 tons, roughly translating to 9.5 B liters daily. It also contributes a lot of food miles due to its transportation worldwide.
Calculate you yearly avocado footprint using this avocado carbon footprint calculator.
Carbon Footprint of Beef Explained
Compared to other animal products, beef has one of the highest carbon footprints, only rivaled by lamb meat. It has a high environmental impact compared to pork, chicken, and eggs, given its mode of production.
Beef is responsible for 27 kg of emissions per kilogram since cows produce a lot of methane, a lethal GHG. Cows also need a lot of food made in factories that release emissions besides the fertilizer required on the farms.
Additionally, rearing cows means the usage of large parcels of land and a lot of water input.
Beef emissions may vary based on the region; for instance, beef from the UK emits less carbon since the climate is perfect for grass growing; therefore, the cows don’t rely much on manufactured feeds.2
Carbon Footprint Chicken: Impact of Chicken on the Environment
Like other livestock, chicken also has a high carbon footprint, and the following are a few environmental costs.
1. Excessive Use of Arable Land
Large-scale farmers need massive land for the animals and for growing their feeds. This land could otherwise go to crop farming for human food, meaning millions of acres dedicated to animal rearing. These lands also need farm inputs like fertilizers and chemicals contributing to emissions.
Farmers sometimes cut down trees to find more room to keep their livestock. The result is a massive loss of wildlife homes and trees, which are necessary for air purification. Cutting down these trees further accelerates the climate crisis.
Poultry farming generates waste from the feeds, manure, and carcasses. While farmers use manure as fertilizers, a lot goes to waste since the land cannot absorb all of it. The rest drains into nearby streams, eventually killing aquatic life, hence why farms are the leading water pollutants.
Carbon Footprint of Chicken vs Beef: Is Chicken Eco-Friendlier?
Excessive beef consumption is infamous for being unhealthy, increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other lifestyle ailments. Besides that, experts also warn that it is dangerous for the environment, thanks to its high carbon footprint.
With levels reaching 27 kg per kilogram produced, it explains why it is one of the heaviest offenders. Chicken is the safer meat alternative since it is responsible for less than a third of beef emissions. Various factors facilitate this, starting with the size difference and the living conditions.
However, the reduction of meat consumption over the years has meant an increase in chicken consumption, adversely affecting the environment.13 Chicken may generate less GHG than cows, but the increased demand makes it hazardous to the environment.
Ultimately, rearing more chicken makes the industry as harmful to the environment as beef production. None is eco-friendlier than the other unless stakeholders devise policies to check the emissions from both sectors.
Compare meat carbon footprints with this calculator.
Closer Look at the Environmental Impact of Milk
The effect of milk on the environment is the same as the impact of meat. It comes from livestock farming and contributes to GHG gas emissions directly and indirectly, given the manure and livestock farming inputs like fertilizers and pesticides.
These chemicals can also wash away into water bodies, devastating to marine life. Don’t forget that you should also consider the entire preparation process, from milking the animals until the product reaches the consumer’s hands.
It involves the preservation, treatment, packaging, transportation, and waste disposal, and each stage emits harmful gasses into the atmosphere. Milk may be excellent for the body, unlike meat, but still, excessive demand harms the environment in several ways.
Other than participating in various carbon offset projects, you can consider using plant-based alternatives like soy, oat, coconut, and almond to reduce your GHG emissions. They may not have the same nutritional value or taste as dairy, but they are kinder to the environment and best for consumers on vegetarian diets.
Which Milk Is Best for the Environment?
It may be tasked to pick the eco-friendliest milk, but everyone knows that dairy is the largest offender in carbon footprint matters.14 Your choice of the remaining options primarily depends on how you define “best for the environment” because each type has its wins and losses.
For instance, almond milk is relatively clean given that it comes from trees which are excellent for carbon offsets credits. Almond plantations reduce the CO2 in the air but still, it has the highest water footprint, requiring millions of liters daily. On the other hand, soy milk doesn’t need as much water, but plantations also need massive pieces of land to feed animals.
The massive paddies are responsible for a lot of GHG emissions for rice milk, while oats are infamous since some farmers use harmful fertilizers on plantations. The decision on which to consume is personal, based on preference, taste, or thickness but always go for plant-based milk, not dairy products.
Plant Milk vs Cow Milk: Environmental Impact of Plant vs Animal-Based Milk
Cow milk loses on all accounts regarding which milk is better for the environment. Animal products are, by nature, heavy carbon emitters across all stages of production. Caring for livestock, obtaining land, and using farm inputs lead to excessive emissions.
In contrast, obtaining milk from plants is better for the environment, and vegans and vegetarians prefer them over regular milk. The dairy produces thrice the number of greenhouse gasses, requires ten times the size of land, and 2-20 times the amount of water.
Therefore, plant-based options should top your list if you are looking for a milk alternative that doesn’t harm the environment. They may have different emissions levels, with almonds being the cleanest, but they are all better than cow milk.
Almond Milk vs Cow Milk Water Consumption (Which Milk Has More Water Footprint?)
Almond milk has a lower carbon footprint than dairy and other plant-based options; however, its downside is it is water-hungry. Experts estimate it takes a whopping 12 liters to process and produce a single almond to milk.
Compared to cow milk, almond milk requires almost 17 times more water to create per liter.
Therefore, if eco-friendly for you means a low water footprint, then almond milk may not be the best option. Luckily, it boasts the lowest carbon footprint, and the trees are great for the environment.
Which Has More Emissions? (Rice vs Beef Carbon Footprint)
Beef is the heaviest carbon emitter of all other food types, both plant, and animal-based foods.15 Comparatively, it generates more than 90 times the GHG from rice per 100 grams, which is expected given the nature of production.
However, rice milk is also relatively harmful to the environment because the paddies emit toxic gasses. It explains why it has a higher carbon footprint than most fruits and other plant-based milk.
Vegetarian Diet Carbon Footprint: Does Switching Diet Help the Environment?
The environmental impact of plant-based foods is 10-50 times lower than that of animal products.3 If the world gradually shifts from meat and dairy to plant diets, it would be a giant leap toward solving the climate crisis.
The following are some diets that can impact the world.
- Vegan: Exclusively eating food from plants
- Vegetarian: Eating plant-based foods, eggs, and dairy and reducing meat and seafood to one serving a month.
- Flexitarian: 75% of the animal products are substituted with plants
- Healthy: Following the dietary rules about avoiding meat and eating more vegetables and fruits.
How Does the Food Carbon Footprint Calculator Work?
Food accounts for a large percentage of your total carbon footprint; luckily, there are online carbon calculators to help you quantify your impact on the environment.
The software asks critical questions like your diet (vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, or omnivore), whether you eat out if you drink, and other related aspects.
Various food footprint calculators come in different designs targeting various users. While some compare your intake to emissions like energy use and vehicle mileage, others help you account for transportation and waste from food.
How To Use a Carbon Footprint Calculator To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of Eggs
Using software to estimate the total carbon footprint is more convenient since you only have to enter the details the system prompts. However, you can also do the calculations manually to determine your daily, weekly and annual footprint.12
Like other quantifications, you can find your CF by multiplying your food intake by the respective emission factor.
Total emissions= activity data × Emission factor
If you want to determine the annual environmental impact of eating certain foods, you can multiply the emissions by how many times you eat that food yearly (based on weekly estimates)
Animal products are staples in every household but on the downside, consuming them means harming the environment. If you are keen on being kind to the planet, it helps to know how to calculate the carbon footprint of eggs, milk, and meat.
It lets you estimate the impact of your food choices on the environment to guide you in making any necessary alterations. You can start by reducing your meat intake, which is the heaviest offender, then gradually switch to plant-based diets.
You can convert to white meat for a start and try out plant-based milk. Organic eggs also have a slightly lower footprint than free-range eggs.
Knowing how to use a carbon footprint of eggs calculator can help you compare the emissions you’ll want to offset from your diet.
Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Footprint of Eggs
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Eggs per Kg?
Assuming each egg weighs an average of 60g, the carbon footprints of eggs is roughly 1.6 kg CO2e per kilogram.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Milk per Kg?
Dairy or cow milk is responsible for about 2.4 kg CO2e per kilogram produced. However, the rate varies based on the region and its production factors.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Rice?
The carbon footprint of rice milk is about 0.09 m3 of CO2 per 100 g serving, making it better for the environment than regular milk. However, its carbon footprint is still higher than other plant-based milk.
What Is Oat Milk Carbon Footprint?
A glass of oat milk (250 ml) generates about 0.22 kg CO2e, equivalent to driving for 1.1 km. It is better for the environment than soy and rice milk but not as eco-friendly as almond milk.
What Is Coconut Milk Carbon Footprint?
Coconut milk accounts for around 2.1 kg of CO2e per kilogram produced, equivalent to driving a car for 8 kilometers. It makes it one of the heaviest emitters of other plant-based milk types.
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17Photo by Haley Hamilton. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/HxNunc_vnlg>
18Photo by Aliona Gumeniuk. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/7sJMQ_amtiQ>
19Photo by R I. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-7080647/>
20Photo by Marine Sintes. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/qp5CdQ8exlc>
21Photo by Kyle Mackie. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/MEnlQv-EQvY>