Cheese Just as Bad as Red Meat? That Stinks!

cheeseIn an effort to cut down on meat consumption, many people (this writer included!) end up eating other proteins, including cheese, as alternatives. But according to new recommendations from the Environmental Working Group -- the very same advocacy group that compiles the "Dirty Dozen" produce list -- choosing cheese is just as bad as meat in terms of its impact on our health and the environment. Therefore, the EWG recommends that we eat a lot less cheese, and when we do, only choose low-fat options like part-skim mozzarella, gouda, and cottage cheese.

It's hard to tell which recommendation is more upsetting: That we should eat less cheese or that we should eat part-skim mozzarella. Is it just me or is the Environmental Working Group quickly becoming your very least favorite advocacy group?


But here's the thing that's hard to ignore: When it comes to emissions and impact on the environment, cheese production takes a huge toll. In fact, according to the EWG report, which analyzed the carbon footprint of 20 common proteins and vegetables, cheese has the third highest greenhouse gas emissions. That's because it actually takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. So, not only is it requiring a huge amount of resources for production (chemical fertilizer, feed, fuel, pesticides, and water), but it's also creating a huge amount of waste (methane and manure from cows).

If you can believe it, cheese has a bigger carbon footprint than pork and farmed salmon. And, according to the EWG's Meat Guide, lamb and beef are the only two choices you could make that are worse than cheese.

And that's not even taking into account how bad some cheese varieties can be for our health: Cheese is high in saturated fat, which significantly increases our risk for heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

Of course, we all know by now that food recommendations are simply that -- a guide to help us choose what to eat. I can tell you right now, I won't ALWAYS reach for the EWG's preferred proteins (lentils, fruits and veggies, beans, and tofu) over cheese; but this will definitely make me more mindful (albeit resentful!) of how much I'm eating and where I can cut down.


Image via cwbuecheler/Flickr

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