Information on the Carbon Footprint of Foods


The carbon footprint of food refers to the amount of greenhouse gases produced from growing, processing, packaging and transporting food. While many people are aware of the carbon footprint of automobiles or air travel, the carbon footprint of food is significant as well.


Every step in getting food from the farm to the table produces greenhouse gases. According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, food in America travels approximately 4,000 to 5,000 miles before it reaches your plate.


Although the miles food travels add significantly to its carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions from production of food are higher.


Meat has the highest carbon footprint of any food. The production of grain to feed animals uses fertilizers and pesticides, and animals used for food are routinely sprayed with pesticides and treated with antibiotics--all of this adds to the carbon footprint.

Processed Foods

Processed foods have a larger carbon footprint than foods in their natural state, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Processed foods are frozen, canned or dried using resources and packaged in containers, which increases their carbon footprint.


The carbon footprint of a fast food cheeseburger is between 7 to 14 lbs. of carbon dioxide (CO2), a pound of beef is approximately 15 lbs., and a pound of wild caught tuna creates about 4.5 lbs. For comparison, a pound of potatoes emits approximately 0.4 lbs of CO2.


  • Green Living Tips: The Carbon Footprint of Food
  • Science Daily: Want To Reduce Your Food-Related Carbon Footprint?
  • Gourmet: Carbon 101

Who Can Help

  • Eatlowcarbon: Low Carbon Diet Calculator
Keywords: carbon footprint, food, CO2, greenhouse gases, meat
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