As Thanksgiving is a holiday both reflectance AND eating a ton, Americans who are grateful for both the food on their plate and the planet that provided it might be interested in the BBC’s “Climate Change Food Calculator,” published in August.
The food calculator provides estimates of annual greenhouse gas emissions, water use and land use for one person’s consumption different food items based on how frequently the user says they eat those foods. Results are based on global averages.
The food calculator does not have information on turkey specifically, but below are results for daily consumption of other foods often shared on Thanksgiving:
Potatoes: 16kg greenhouse gases
Wine: 114kg greenhouse gases, 5,026 liters of water
Bread: 21kg greenhouse gases, 8,995 liters of water
Chicken: 497kg greenhouse gases, 33,294 litres of water, 616m² land
Beans: 36kg greenhouse gases, 8,888 liters of water
Pork: 656kg greenhouse gases, 95,756 liters of water, 926m² land
So enjoy your feast tomorrow, if you are having one, but remember to thank the Earth for the resources it took to get your meal on your plate, too.
Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of food produced and sold in the U.S. goes to waste, according to varying estimates. Some is cooked but uneaten. Some goes rotten in the fridge. Some never makes it off the grocery shelf, and some never even makes it off the farm field.
Food waste is not only a disservice to the hungry, but a disservice to the planet, too. All food, from carrots to highly-processed cookies, is organic matter, which requires oxygen to decompose properly. In a densely compacted landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen, and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The considerable water and energy resources used to produce food are wasted as well when food goes in the landfill. Nearly 250 gallons of water go into just two 15 oz cans of corn. Over 2,000 gallons of water go into just two pounds of poultry, which includes the water used to grow food for the birds.
Be conscious of food waste this Thanksgiving by following these three tips.
1. Pace yourself
On a day reserved for overeating, it can be tempting to load up your plate with several servings at once. While eating is the best way to reduce food waste, when you eventually reach your limit, what is left on your plate will most likely go in the trash. Take only what you are certain you will eat, and go back for more as many times as you need. When you finish, your plate will be clear and leftovers will be prime for saving.
2. Actually eat your leftovers
If you anticipate having leftovers, be sure to account for them when shopping at the grocery store. You won’t need to buy as much food the weekend if Thanksgiving dinner will be making a reprise. If you still have more leftover than you think you will need, send it home with guests or even share it with pets. You can also freeze individual portions in airtight containers or bags to be eaten for weeks after the holiday.
3. Give scraps new life
Most food waste can be composted! See dos and don’ts here. If the host does not keep a compost bin or use a pickup service, someone else in attendance may be willing to take scraps home in a garbage bag or large container. Check with your city’s waste management department to see if they accept cooking oil for recycling (especially if you are frying a turkey!), which can be used to create biofuel.
Turkey has been a staple of Thanksgiving dinners for generations but the bird’s evolution over the past century or so has been particularly interesting.
Turkeys raised and served these days are more than twice as large as they were in the 1930s. Many of the reasons for the increase in the size of these fowls is directly related to the turkey farming industry. Beginning in the 1950s turkey farmers began selectively breeding birds for both size and speed of growth to accommodate for increased demand of turkey meat. With some male turkeys weighing as much as 50 pounds they became unable to impregnate their female mates and today nearly all turkeys are bred through artificial insemination.
There is debate much about whether these selectively-bred turkeys are considered genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While most scientists would not classify turkeys as GMOs, some conventionally-raised turkeys are fed GMO corn. Since turkeys are being fed in close quarters with modern farm operations, the birds are given lower doses of antibiotics to protect against infection. This change in antibiotic dosages has caused violence among turkeys and has even lead instances of cannibalism.