Choosing the lesser of two evils – lessons learned from comparing bacon and lettuce.

‘Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon’ states the author of the ScienceDaily blog based on the paper published in the journal of Environment Systems and Decisions at the end of November. This provocative statement caused some uproar among my acquaintances in the past week. This motivated me to share this discussion with you, in case you missed it before, as I did.

A BLT sandwich (source:

According to the authors, what is better for our health is not necessary better for the environment. They had a critical look on the health guidelines proposed by the US Department of Agriculture. The authors did not criticize the actual health benefits of the proposed diets, which are beyond discussion. They took a look at the guidelines from the perspective of the environmental impact. They considered the energy used to produce the food, blue-water footprint and the greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, it seems that the diet healthiest for us humans is putting a higher pressure on our planet. In other words, we need more energy and water to produce enough ‘lettuce’ to substitute the calories we get eating ‘bacon’. They simple way of reducing environmental impact is to keep our current diet but eat fewer calories, authors suggest.

This all sound super interesting and made it to the headlines on many news-sites. Many people would love to have an excuse for eating less vegies and more bacon. The problem is that the data were wrongly interpreted! It is true that you need to eat much more lettuce to compensate for the calories you would get from bacon. To be more precise you need to eat 96 cups of shredded lettuce to get as much calories as from eating 4 slices of bacon. But why would anyone do this? Becoming a vegetarian or eating less meat does not mean eating exclusively lettuce – a vegetable with literary no energy value for us, especially since we need energy to digest it.

What authors really wanted to achieve is to show that sometimes we need to look at the new solution from different angles before we enthusiastically agree with it. So using a common sense is always the right way to go. And no, we will not save the planet by throwing the lettuce from the BLT sandwich.

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