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Greenhouse gas emissions, total food spending and diet quality by share of household food spending on red meat: results from a nationally representative sample of US households

  • Rebecca Boehm (a1), Michele Ver Ploeg (a2), Parke E Wilde (a3) and Sean B Cash (a3)



To determine if US household food purchases with lower levels of red meat spending generate lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), greater nutritional quality and improved alignment with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Affordability of purchasing patterns by red meat spending levels was also assessed.


Household food purchase and acquisition data were linked to an environmentally extended input–output life-cycle assessment model to calculate food GHGE. Households (n 4706) were assigned to quintiles by the share of weekly food spending on red meat. Average weekly kilojoule-adjusted GHGE, total food spending, nutrients purchased and 2010 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010) were evaluated using ANOVA and linear regression.




Households participating in the 2012–2013 National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey.


There was substantial variation in the share of the household food budget spent on red meat and total spending on red meat. The association between red meat spending share and total food spending was mixed. Lower red meat spending share was mostly advantageous from a nutritional perspective. Average GHGE were significantly lower and HEI-2010 scores were significantly higher for households spending the least on red meat as a share of total food spending.


Only very low levels of red meat spending as a share of total food spending had advantages for food affordability, lower GHGE, nutrients purchased and diet quality. Further studies assessing changes in GHGE and other environmental burdens, using more sophisticated analytical techniques and accounting for substitution towards non-red meat animal proteins, are needed.


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