Lettuce and bacon, often polar opposites in the world of carnivores and vegetarians, are sometimes strange bedfellows. Vegans and vegetarians, besides eating soy substitutes, are no fan or friend to bacon, and the carnivorous and omnivorous aren’t always too kind to salads. The answer as to whether lettuce is healthier for you and yours than bacon was once thought to obviously be lettuce, but according to the Scientific American, bacon might have outpaced lettuce in a very specific way. A study by Carnegie Mellon University shows that lettuce is three times worse for the environment than the ever popular, but ever fattening, bacon.
Paul Fischbeck, a professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy, according to SFGate, says it is all about greenhouse gas emissions from the usage of more resources for lettuce over bacon.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon. Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”
Contrary to recent celebrity endorsements and other non-scientific thought, Professor Fischbeck said it is not as simple as just eating fruits and vegetables, such as lettuce, and expecting the planet will be just fine.
“You cannot just jump and assume that any vegetarian diet is going to have a low impact on the environment. There are many that do, but not all. You can’t treat all fruits and veggies as good for the environment.”
The Carnegie Mellon study also found that if Americans were to switch their diets to the Agriculture Department’s dietary recommendations, it would result in a 38 percent increase in energy use, 10 percent bump in water use, and a 6 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The reason all of this is true is because the lettuce, dairy, and seafood are more resource intensive than processed, sugary, or fatty foods like bacon. If you haven’t figured it out, the former are part of the recommended diet.
Through their testing, Professor Fischbeck explained all the factors that went into discovering the effect lettuce has on the environment, and how bacon is the victor in this food fight.
“If what your concern is the greenhouse gas emissions or energy or water use of the entire system, I don’t think you should leave out large chunks of it. If you want to know how much energy is being consumed, you have to include waste and what is lost from grocery store or dining room table.”
Lettuce versus bacon, the healthier versus the unhealthy, proves to not be so healthy for the environment. Bacon edges out its healthy competitor, but Carnegie Melon’s Michelle Tom explains that what is good for the goose is not always what is good for the environment.
“There’s a complex relationship between diet and the environment. What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment. That’s important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future.”
While the Carnegie Melon professors and researchers still recommend the unpopular Brussel sprouts, it is a clear win for bacon lovers, who often feel ostracized by the vegetarians, vegans, and some members of the medical community. While bacon may not have proven to be healthy and nutritious, many still might say it is tastier than lettuce and, certainly, Brussels sprouts. Not to mention that the bacon eaters of the world might be saving the environment, even if it doesn’t save them. Those lettuce and salad eaters could be selfishly harming the environment.
The choice between the environment and you is up to you. Then again, bacon bits were made to go on salads.