Food consumption is increasingly impacting the environment. Our results for China, together with previous findings, demonstrate that dietary patterns could contribute directly and significantly to the dietary Ecological Foot Print (EFP), and animal-based diets have greater environmental consequences in terms of land use than plant-based diets.
This study highlights again the dominant role of meat consumption, especially pork and seafood, in dietary patterns, suggesting that China has entered an era dominated by animal-based products. India, as another fast-developing country with the second-largest population, however, did not consume much meat, fish, or eggs. This resulted in a relatively lower environmental footprint for Indian people than for Chinese people. Although dietary choice is a personal matter, owing to the increasing environmental concern, individuals are motivated to change their dietary patterns. A transition to eating less meat would therefore reduce the negative environmental impacts. However, rising incomes and urbanization are driving a global dietary transition in which traditional diets are replaced by diets higher in refined fats and meats. This trend is especially significant in developing countries like China, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, and Mexico.
In light of the generally continually increasing income, diversity dietary cultures, and dietary transitions, the impacts on environmental resources of meat consumption will be severe. Hence, incentives should focus on improving people’s awareness of sustainable dietary patterns.
Read the full paper here: Su, B., Zhang, C., Martens, P. & Cao, X. (2022). A comparative study on the dietary ecological footprint in contemporary China. Science of the Total Environment, 851 (2), 158289.