Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Comparing the water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer usage for the production of foods consumed by different dietary types in California

  • Harold J Marlow (a1), Helen Harwatt (a1), Samuel Soret (a2) and Joan Sabaté (a1)

Abstract

Objective

To compare the use of water, energy, pesticides and fertilizer to produce commodities for two dietary patterns that vary in the content of plant and animal products.

Design

A unique analysis using ‘real-world’ data was performed, in contrast to previous analyses which applied simulated data. Consumption data from the Adventist Health Study were used to identify two dietary patterns with a markedly different consumption of several plant and animal products. State agricultural data were collected and applied to commodity production statistics. Indices were created to allow a comparison of the resource requirements for each dietary pattern.

Setting

California, USA.

Subjects

None.

Results

The diet containing more animal products required an additional 10 252 litres of water, 9910 kJ of energy, 186 g of fertilizer and 6 g of pesticides per week in comparison to the diet containing less animal products. The greatest contribution to the difference came from the consumption of animal products, particularly beef.

Conclusions

Consuming a more plant-based diet could to an extent alleviate the negative environmental impacts related to food production. As a method to feed ourselves more sustainably, behavioural adjustments appear to be a very important tool.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Comparing the water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer usage for the production of foods consumed by different dietary types in California
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Comparing the water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer usage for the production of foods consumed by different dietary types in California
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Comparing the water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer usage for the production of foods consumed by different dietary types in California
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: Email hharwatt@llu.edu

References

Hide All
1. Garnett, T (2013) Food sustainability: problems, perspectives and solutions. Proc Nutr Soc 72, 2939.
2. Berners-Lee, M, Hoolohan, C, Cammack, H et al. (2012) The relative greenhouse gas impacts of realistic dietary choices. Energy Policy 43, 184190.
3. Heller, MC & Keoleian, GA (2014) Greenhouse gas emission estimates of US dietary choices and food loss. J Ind Ecol (In the Press).
4. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2010) Water withdrawal by sector. AQUASTAT database. http://www.fao.org/nr/aquastat (accessed November 2013).
5. Tanji, KK & Enos, CA (1994) Global water resources and agricultural use. In Management of Water Use in Agriculture, pp. 324 [KK Tanji and B Yaron, editors]. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
6. Sutton, MA, Bleeker, A, Howard, CM et al. (2013) Our Nutrient World: The Challenge to Produce More Food and Energy with Less Pollution. Global Overview of Nutrient Management. Edinburgh: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, on behalf of the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management and the International Nitrogen Initiative.
7. International Energy Agency (2012) Key World Energy Statistics 2012. Paris: IEA.
8. Canning, P, Charles, A, Huang, S et al. (2010) Energy Use in the US Food System. Economic Research Report no. ERR-94. Washington, DC: USDA/Economic Research Service.
9. US Environmental Protection Agency (2013) 2006–2007 Pesticide Market Estimates: Usage. http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/pestsales/07pestsales/usage2007.htm (accessed October 2014).
10. Horrigan, L, Lawrence, RS & Walker, P (2002) How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture. Environ Health Perspect 110, 445456.
11. Crépet, A, Tressou, J, Graillot, V et al. (2013) Identification of the main pesticide residue mixtures to which the French population is exposed. Environ Res 126, 125133.
12. Barcelona, MJ & Robbins, GA (2003) Soil and groundwater pollution. In Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, 3rd ed., pp. 4962 [RA Meyers, editor]. New York: Academic Press.
13. Mahugija, JAM, Henkelmann, B & Schramm, K-W (2014) Levels, compositions and distributions of organochlorine pesticide residues in soil 5–14 years after clean-up of former storage sites in Tanzania. Chemosphere 117, 330337.
14. Király, Z (1996) Sustainable agriculture and the use of pesticides. J Environ Sci Health, Part B 31, 283291.
15. Levitan, L, Merwin, I & Kovach, J (1995) Assessing the relative environmental impacts of agricultural pesticides: the quest for a holistic method. Agric Ecosyst Environ 55, 153168.
16. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2011) Current World Fertilizer Trends and Outlook to 2015. Rome: FAO; available at ftp://ftp.fao.org/ag/agp/docs/cwfto15.pdf
17. Eshel, G & Martin, PA (2009) Geophysics and nutritional science: toward a novel, unified paradigm. Am J Clin Nutr 89, issue 5, 1710S1716S.
18. Erisman, JW, Galloway, JN, Seitzinger, S et al. (2013) Consequences of human modification of the global nitrogen cycle. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 368, 20130116.
19. Foley, JA, Ramankutty, N, Brauman, KA et al. (2011) Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478, 337342.
20. van der Werf, HMG, Garnett, T, Corson, MS et al. (2014) Towards eco-efficient agriculture and food systems: theory, praxis and future challenges. J Cleaner Prod 73, 19.
21. van Dooren, C, Marinussen, M, Blonk, H et al. (2014) Exploring dietary guidelines based on ecological and nutritional values: a comparison of six dietary patterns. Food Policy 44, 3646.
22. Eshel, G, Shepon, A, Makov, T et al. (2014) Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111, 1199612001.
23. Masset, G, Vieux, F, Verger, EO et al. (2014) Reducing energy intake and energy density for a sustainable diet: a study based on self-selected diets in French adults. Am J Clin Nutr 99, 14601469.
24. Garnett, T (2011) Where are the best opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food system (including the food chain)? Food Policy 36, Suppl. 1, S23S32.
25. McMichael, AJ, Powles, JW, Butler, CD et al. (2007) Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health. Lancet 370, 12531263.
26. Popp, A, Lotze-Campen, H & Bodirsky, B (2010) Food consumption, diet shifts and associated non-CO2 greenhouse gases from agricultural production. Global Environ Change 20, 451462.
27. Sabate, J & Soret, S (2014) Sustainability of plant-based diets: back to the future. Am J Clin Nutr 100, Suppl. 1, 476S482S.
28. Bajzelj, B, Richards, KS, Allwood, JM et al. (2014) Importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation. Nat Clim Chang 4, 924929.
29. Carlsson-Kanyama, A & Gonzalez, AD (2009) Potential contributions of food consumption patterns to climate change. Am J Clin Nutr 89, issue 5, 1704S1709S.
30. Beeson, WL, Mills, PK, Phillips, RL et al. (1989) Chronic disease among Seventh-day Adventists, a low-risk group. Rationale, methodology, and description of the population. Cancer 64, 570581.
31. Fraser, GE (2009) Vegetarian diets: what do we know of their effects on common chronic diseases? Am J Clin Nutr 89, issue 5, 1607S1612S.
32. Fraser, GE, Lindsted, KD, Knutsen, SF et al. (1998) Validity of dietary recall over 20 years among California Seventh-day Adventists. Am J Epidemiol 148, 810818.
33. Marlow, H (2006) The environmental impact of dietary choice and agriculture in California. PhD Thesis, Loma Linda University.
34. Putnam, J & Allshouse, J (1999) Food Consumption, Prices, and Expenditures, 1970–97. Statistical Bulletin no. SB-965. Washington, DC: USDA/Economic Research Service.
35. US National Agricultural Statistics Service (1999) 1997 Census of Agriculture. Washington, DC: USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service.
36. California Agricultural Statistics Service (1998) 1997 Agricultural Commissioners’ Data. Sacramento, CA: USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service and State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture, Agricultural Statistics Branch.
37. Caprile, J, Grant, J, Holtz, B et al. (2001) Sample Costs to Establish an Apple Orchard and Produce Apples. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
38. Day, K, Andris, H, Beede, R et al. (2000) Sample Costs to Establish a Peach/Nectarine Orchard and Produce Peaches/Nectarines. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
39. Frate, C, Klonsky, K & DeMoura, R (2001) Sample Costs to Produce Blackeye Beans, Double Cropped. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
40. Frate, C, Klonsky, K & DeMoura, R (2001) Sample Costs to Produce Blackeye Beans, Single Cropped. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
41. Hendricks, L, Duncan, R, Vcrdegaal, P et al. (1998) Sample to Establish an Almond Orchard and Produce Almonds Northern San Joaquin Valley, Flood Irrigation. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
42. Klonsky, K, Christensen, P, Costello, M et al. (1997) Sample Costs to Establish a Vineyard and Produce Raisins. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
43. Klonsky, K, Freeman, M, Sibbett, G et al. (1997) Sample to Establish an Almond Orchard and Produce Almonds. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
44. Long, R, Munier, D, Cahn, M et al. (1999) Sample Costs to Produce Beans. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
45. Mayberry, K (2000) Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Watermelon. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
46. O’Connell, K, Klonsky, K, Freeman, M et al. (1999) Sample Costs to Establish an Orange Orchard and Produce Oranges. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
47. Vasquez, S, Leavitt, G, Peacock, W et al. (2003) Sample Costs to Establish a Vineyard and Produce Dried-on-Vine Raisins. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
48. Frost, W, Klonsky, K & DeMoura, R (2000) Sample Costs to Produce Fresh Market Peaches. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
49. Hasey, J, Duncan, R, Sanders, H et al. (1998) Sample Costs to Establish a Cling Peach Orchard and Produce Cling Peaches. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
50. National Research Council (2000) Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle, 7th revised ed. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
51. Mathews, M, Canevari, M, Frate, C et al. (1998) Sample Costs to Establish an Alfalfa Stand and Produce Alfalfa. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
52. Vargas, R, Mueller, S, Frate, C et al. (2003) Sample Costs to Establish an Alfalfa Stand and Produce Alfalfa . California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
53. Vargas, R, Frate, C, Mathews, M et al. (1999) Sample Costs to Produce Field Corn. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
54. Brittan, K, Muiner, D, Klonsky, K et al. (2004) Sample Costs to Produce Field Corn. California: University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
55. Bell, D & Weaver, W (2002) Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
56. Ensminger, M, Oldfield, J & Heinemann, W (1990) Feeds and Nutrition. Clovis, CA: The Ensminger Publishing Co.
57. National Research Council (1994) Nutrient Requirements of Poultry, 9th revised ed. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
58. US Department of Transportation (2006) National Transportation Statistics 2006. Washington, DC: US DOT/Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
59. US Department of Agriculture (2000) Agricultural Chemical Usage, 1999 Fruit and Nut Summary. Washington, DC: USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service.
60. US Department of Agriculture (1999) Agricultural Chemical Usage, 1998 Vegetable Summary. Washington, DC: USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service.
61. California Environmental Protection Agency (1999) Summary of Pesticide Use Report Data 1997, Indexed by Commodity. Sacramento, CA: CEPA, Department of Pesticide Regulation.
62. US Department of Agriculture (2000) Agricultural Chemical Usage, 1999 Cattle and Cattle Facilities. Washington, DC: USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service.
63. Howell, T (2001) Enhancing water use efficiency in irrigated agriculture. Argon J 93, 281289.
64. Mekonnen, M & Hoekstra, A (2012) A global assessment of the water footprint of farm animal products. Ecosystems 15, 401415.
65. Macdiarmid, JI, Kyle, J, Horgan, GW et al. (2012) Sustainable diets for the future: can we contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eating a healthy diet? Am J Clin Nutr 96, 632639.
66. Stehfest, EBL, van Vuuren, DP, den Elzen, MGJ et al. (2009) Climate benefits of changing diet. Climatic Change 95, 83102.
67. Schmidinger, K & Stehfest, E (2012) Including CO2 implications of land occupation in LCAs – method and example for livestock products. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17, 962972.
68. Scarborough, P, Appleby, P, Mizdrak, A et al. (2014) Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. Climatic Change 125, 179192.
69. Friel, S, Barosh, LJ & Lawrence, M (2014) Towards healthy and sustainable food consumption: an Australian case study. Public Health Nutr 17, 11561166.
70. Wilson, N, Nghiem, N, Ni Mhurchu, C et al. (2013) Foods and dietary patterns that are healthy, low-cost, and environmentally sustainable: a case study of optimization modeling for New Zealand. PLoS ONE 8, e59648.
71. Meier, T & Christen, O (2012) Environmental impacts of dietary recommendations and dietary styles: Germany as an example. Environ Sci Technol 47, 877888.
72. Biesbroek, S, Bueno-de-Mesquita, HB, Peeters, PH et al. (2014) Reducing our environmental footprint and improving our health: greenhouse gas emission and land use of usual diet and mortality in EPIC-NL: a prospective cohort study. Environ Health 13, 27.
73. Marlow, HJ, Hayes, WK, Soret, S et al. (2009) Diet and the environment: does what you eat matter? Am J Clin Nutr 89, issue 5, 1699S1703S.
74. Soret, S, Mejia, A, Batech, M et al. (2014) Climate change mitigation and health effects of varied dietary patterns in real-life settings throughout North America. Am J Clin Nutr 100, Suppl. 1, 490S495S.
75. Leitzmann, C (2003) Nutrition ecology: the contribution of vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr 78, 3 Suppl., 657S659S.
76. Maupin, MA, Kenny, JF, Hutson, SS et al. (2014) Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010. US Geological Survey Circular 1405. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1405/pdf/circ1405.pdf (accessed December 2014).
77. Rockstrom, J, Steffen, W, Noone, K et al. (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472475.
78. Goodland, R & Anhang, J (2009) Livestock and Climate Change: What if the Key Actors in Climate Change Are Cows, Pigs, and Chickens? Washington, DC: World Watch Institute.
79. Sonja, J, Vermeulen, BMC, John, S et al. (2012) Climate change and food systems. Annu Rev Environ Res 37, 195222.
80. Steinfeld, HGP (2006) Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Rome: FAO.
81. Pan, A, Sun, Q, Bernstein, AM et al. (2012) Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Arch Intern Med 172, 555563.
82. Salehi, M, Moradi-Lakeh, M, Salehi, MH et al. (2013) Meat, fish, and esophageal cancer risk: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Nutr Rev 71, 257267.
83. Huang, W, Han, Y, Xu, J et al. (2013) Red and processed meat intake and risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Causes Control 24, 193201.
84. Xu, X, Yu, E, Gao, X et al. (2013) Red and processed meat intake and risk of colorectal adenomas: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Int J Cancer 132, 437448.
85. Micha, R, Wallace, SK & Mozaffarian, D (2010) Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation 121, 22712283.
86. Rohrmann, S, Overvad, K, Bueno-de-Mesquita, HB et al. (2013) Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Med 11, 63.
87. Pettersen, BJ, Anousheh, R, Fan, J et al. (2012) Vegetarian diets and blood pressure among white subjects: results from the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2). Public Health Nutr 15, 19091916.
88. Rizzo, NS, Sabate, J, Jaceldo-Siegl, K et al. (2011) Vegetarian dietary patterns are associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome: the Adventist Health Study 2. Diabetes Care 34, 12251227.
89. Tonstad, S, Stewart, K, Oda, K et al. (2013) Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 23, 292299.
90. Jacobs, DR Jr, Haddad, EH, Lanou, AJ et al. (2009) Food, plant food, and vegetarian diets in the US dietary guidelines: conclusions of an expert panel. Am J Clin Nutr 89, issue 5, 1549S1552S.
91. Sabate, J (2003) The contribution of vegetarian diets to health and disease: a paradigm shift? Am J Clin Nutr 78, 3 Suppl., 502S507S.
92. Vanham, D, Hoekstra, AY & Bidoglio, G (2013) Potential water saving through changes in European diets. Environ Int 61, 4556.
93. Verheijen, L, Wiersema, D, Hulshoff Pol, L et al. (1996) Livestock and the Environment – Finding a Balance. Management of Waste from Animal Product Processing. Coordinated by the FAO, USAID and World Bank. http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/programmes/en/lead/toolbox/Refer/IACwaste.PDF (accessed September 2011).
94. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2011) USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page. http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl (accessed September 2011).

Keywords

Comparing the water, energy, pesticide and fertilizer usage for the production of foods consumed by different dietary types in California

  • Harold J Marlow (a1), Helen Harwatt (a1), Samuel Soret (a2) and Joan Sabaté (a1)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed