August 13, 2019

Milk’s Nutrient Density Overwhelms Climate Impact

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

No food can be produced without some impact on the environment or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But simply looking at GHGs without accounting for the nutrition provided by food can leave a distorted picture.

A study by the Department of Public Health and Caring Science at Uppsala University in Sweden attempts to look at both a food’s nutrient density and the amount of GHGs needed to produce it. The study creates a Nutrient Density to Climate Impact (NDCI) index, which looks at 21 essential nutrients in food in relationship to the GHG emissions created in the production of the food.

Milk comes out on top, with an NDCI index rating of 0.54. “Due to low-nutrient density, the NDCI index was 0 for water, soft drinks and beer, and below 0.1 for red wine and oat milk,” say the authors. Soy beverage juice came in at 0.25 and orange juice at 0.28.

Anti-dairy lobbyists have pushed back against the study’s findings.

But the conclusion of the authors stands to reason: “Future discussion on how changes in food consumption patterns might help avert climate change need to take both GHG emissions and nutrient density of food and beverages into account,” they say.