The study is in lockstep with recommendations released by the United Nations in August, which called on consumers to eat less meat as a means of helping the environment.
“It would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The research team from the University of Minnesota based their new study on 15 different food groups and how they were associated with five different health outcomes and five aspects of environmental impact.
"Normally, if a food product is good for one aspect of a person's health, it's better for other health outcomes, as well. The same holds for environmental outcomes,” researcher David Tilman said.
Red meat, such as beef and pork had the greatest level of negative environmental impact, the researchers found.
A couple exceptions:
- Fish, while generally seen as a healthier food option, had a higher negative environmental impact that other healthy foods
- Sugar-sweetened beverages did not have a high environmental impact, but are associated with health risks