Originally Posted by Dilettante
Incidentally, the one area where the above analysis (that veganism is more efficient) is less certain is with respect to processed vegan foods, like veggie burgers and other faux meats. The processing consumes energy, so it's not always clear that the same efficiency gains accrue as with whole plant foods. I still believe that it's probably true that processed vegan foods are more efficient than meat on a calories per acre basis, but there haven't been many studies on this.
The top five environmentally dangerous foods are lamb, cows flesh, cows cheese, pigs flesh and farmed salmon. This is due to both CO2 or methane emissions and direct impact on the environment - which includes air and water pollution, and in the case of farmed salmon, water waste and interference with wild salmon populations. There is little justification for any "red meat" or cows cheese due to emissions, deforestation and pollution...no vegetarian foods fall on the spectrum until we get to the 10th spot, for potatoes, which is still nearly half the impact as eggs which falls at 9th. The impact of the vegetable foods - including the long demonized rice - is such a small percentage compared to the top five it's almost laughable.
The problem with faux meats would lie mainly in shipping, due to fossil fuels in transportation, BUT to look at this a little differently. ..is fuel a problem we can solve? Yes we can. We can generate power, for example, for public transportation with much more fuel efficiency and less emissions than the average car, and we have newer technology for vehicles which can be applied in the near future. Is the grain, water and land waste of farmed animals a problem we can solve without reducing it or cutting it out entirely? No, it is not unless they really start growing flesh in laboratories to sell as animal products.
Furthermore, continuing to remove fish from the seas at the rate which we do is disrupting entire ecosystems, it's not just killing the fish, it's affecting bears and even riparian plant life, and fish farming, as noted in the "top five" isn't the greatest solution to that problem.
Are whole vegan foods best for the environment? Yes. Are faux meats as damaging or more damaging than eating animal products? No (unless you are a lacto-vegetarian who milks your own goats, or gets goats milk from a local farm, which assuredly happens in developing countries but not as much in the US).