Eat chapati, give up mutton, to save earth

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Dec 28, 2009 01:37 IST

Rice contributes more to global warming than chapatis and mutton curry is more damaging than chicken curry, according to a study of the impact of Indian food on climate.

Consumed in quantities producing the same amount of energy, wheat is eight times less damaging to the climate than rice and 52 times less than mutton, says the report, which has not been published yet.

The study by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) examines the carbon footprint of 24 food items used in Indian homes such as chapati, rice, vegetables and milk derivatives such as paneer.

“Rice has a higher global warming potential as it is grown in anaerobic soil, leading to higher methane emission. Wheat and vegetables are grown in aerobic soil condition, where methane emission is almost nil,” said H. Pathak of IARI.

Methane is many times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

So, did environment minister Jairam Ramesh know something the rest of us didn’t when he said vegetarians contribute less to global warming than non-vegetarians? Not entirely.

The study found that shahi paneer, a milk derivative, is more damaging than chicken and only marginally less than mutton.

It takes 900 litres of water to produce one kg of wheat but 15,000 litres for the same quantity of mutton, the study said. Also, animals consume crop product — cattle feed. Hence, 10-12 kg of crops go into producing 1 kg of mutton.


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