Israel leads in yet another paradox: Most vegans, leader in chicken consumption

German nutrition retailer analyzed data supplied by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization finds Israel has the largest ‘carbon footprint’ based on highest poultry consumption worldwide.



Israel has the unenviable title of having the largest carbon footprint per capita due to poultry consumption in the world, a study comparing annual carbon dioxide emissions across 130 countries revealed on Tuesday.

German nutrition retailer nu3 analyzed data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to assess which countries have the potential to significantly reduce their carbon footprint by switching their consumption habits to a plant-based diet that would minimize damage to the environment.

Chicken farm – Photo: Larry Rana – USDA

According to the study, Israel emits 67.1 kg. of carbon dioxide per person annually due to poultry consumption, more than any other country in the world. The Israeli average significantly exceeds the annual poultry-consumption emissions of second-placed Trinidad and Tobago (62.6 kg.) and third-placed Hong Kong (58.9 kg.).

The study shows that Israel is ranked 22nd globally in terms of potential carbon-footprint reduction, with an average footprint of 192.8 kg. per person annually for animal product consumption and only 14.1 kg. per person for non-animal products, such as wheat, rice and nuts.

The potential for reducing emissions is based on evaluating the amount of carbon dioxide a person in each country could reduce annually by replacing 1 kg. of animal product with 1 kg. of non-animal product.

Argentina has the greatest carbon footprint due to animal product consumption in the world, emitting 305.81 kg. of carbon dioxide per person annually. Figures show that this is largely due to the high level of beef consumption there.

The country only emits 7.94 kg.carbon dioxide per person for non-animal products, meaning that Argentinians can make the greatest positive impact to the environment by switching to a plant-based diet. Australia has the second greatest potential to reduce emissions, followed by Iceland, Albania and New Zealand.

“With this study revealing how switching diets could drastically reduce our carbon footprint, it’s becoming increasingly harder to ignore the benefits of moving to a plant-based diet, both for our health and our planet,” said nu3 CEO Robert Sünderhauf.

For those not ready to give up meat altogether, Sünderhauf suggests switching to healthier fish and poultry from fattier red meats such as lamb and beef which leave a far greater carbon footprint. Eggs are preferable to milk products and cheese as they produce significantly less carbon dioxide.

“All evidence points towards a mainly plant-based diet, with lean animal-based protein if needed, to help both our bodies and our environment prosper,” said Sünderhauf.

DESPITE ISRAEL’S high animal-product carbon footprint, the Jewish state today is a global leader when it comes to plant-based diets.

Estimates suggest that 5% of Israeli citizens identify as vegan, making Israel the largest vegan nation per capita in the world. In addition, 8% of Israelis identify as vegetarian. According to Israeli non-profit group Anonymous for Animal Rights, 40% of Israelis say they have reduced their consumption of animal-based food.

For those seeking a plant-based culinary adventure, Tel Aviv was dubbed the “vegan capital of the world” by British newspaper The Independent, highlighting the 400 vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in the city.

Ingrid Newkirk, president and founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), recently praised Israel as a world leader in veganism.

“The upsurge of vegan eating in Israel is very, very strong. Israel is a leader in the switch to vegan eating, vegetarian foods – for [the sake of] animals but also for the environment. There is a huge environmental consciousness,” Newkirk told The Jerusalem Post ahead of a mass animal rights march in Tel Aviv in September 2017.

Israel develops a new variation, the Hadar strawberry – Photo: Volcani Institute

“There is a wealth of wonderful fresh produce that the rest of the world is envious of, as well as delicious foods readily available. No effort needs to go into finding them. Tasty vegan food like hummus, falafel and tahina – which were once regional specialties – have now proliferated the global food market and have become mainstream,” she said.


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