A DIET including one portion of meat a day carries a lower carbon footprint than a vegetarian diet that includes dairy.
That’s according to research by Johns Hopkins University which modelled the environmental impact of all major diets across 140 countries.
It concluded that those switching to a vegetarian diet rather than vegan may be doing more harm for the planet than good.
The study found that by giving up meat and supplementing their intake with dairy products such as Halloumi cheese, and yogurt vegetarians only fractionally improve their carbon footprint.
Instead, the research found it would be far more beneficial to cut down on dairy products while increasing fruit and vegetable consumption as part of a diet that included one portion of meat a day.
In the UK alone, this so-called two-thirds vegan diet contributed the equivalent of 762.7 kg of Carbon Dioxide emissions per-person, compared with 1,265.2 kg for a vegetarian diet including dairy.
The research found that while meat is the most greenhouse gas intensive food, dairy is not far behind.
That is partly because the raising of dairy cows for milk, butter and cheese requires large amounts of energy and land, as well as fertilisers and pesticides to grow fodder.
Many climate activists and scientists have called for a shift to plant-based diets to keep climate change in check and reduce deforestation.
On average, producing a serving of beef emits 316 times more greenhouse gases than pulses, 115 times more than nuts, and 40 times more than soy, it added.
The study noted while global shift to a strictly vegan diet would reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 70 per cent, diets including insects, small fish and molluscs offered similar benefits, while providing a better source of protein and vitamins.