Switching to plant-based cheese can reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent compared to the dairy version

A life cycle evaluation used to determine environmental impacts, including indicators for climate impact and land use, has revealed that ordinary cheese is a major cause of carbon emissions.

Popular dairy cheese varieties such as cheddar, mozzarella, feta and Parmesan yield between 6.4 and 13.4 kg carbon dioxide (eq) per kilo over their life cycle, according to sustainability consultancy Quantis.

By comparison, the climate impacts of Violife vegan alternatives to dairy cheese are substantially lower and create at least 3.7 kg less carbon dioxide per kilo, the equivalent of driving a car almost seven miles.

The findings come as a survey of 2,000 adults revealed that while many show an interest in the impact of cheese production on the environment, one in three admit they don’t understand how greenhouse gas emissions and food production are linked.

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Cheese is a bigger offender than some meats

Research by the World Economic Forum shows dairy cheese is one of the largest greenhouse gas generators behind beef and lamb, placing it ahead of pork, chicken and eggs, but only 26 per cent those surveyed ranked it as one of the most carbon-intensive foods.

Sally Smith, director of sustainability for Upfield, owner of Violife said: “There’s a clear appetite among the public for more information about what we eat and how it affects the planet, but the environmental impact of dairy often slips under the radar.

“Our research found if an average UK household of four switched from dairy cheese to Violife vegan alternative cheese for a year, they could save the equivalent CO2 emissions as they would driving a car 173 miles – roughly the same distance as London to Sheffield.

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“Studies show what we eat can reduce our impact on our planet by making a simple switch from dairy cheese. Those wanting to reduce their carbon footprint now have a wider range of delicious, natural plant-based alternatives than ever.

“This means people can make the change from dairy cheese with minimal effort, without sacrificing what we enjoy eating and cooking with.”

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Brits eat dairy several times a week

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The national poll found 58 per cent of adults eat dairy cheese three or more times a week with over a fifth (22 per cent) eating it five times or more per week.

A little under two thirds (64 per cent) have never tried a vegan cheese alternative, though over four in 10 confess to feeling guilty for eating too many foods with a high carbon footprint.

There appears to be an appetite for change however, with 54 per cent admitting they would be more likely to buy food with a low carbon footprint, and 50 per cent saying they are worried about the impact of food production on the planet.

And two thirds think food products should be labelled with their carbon footprints.

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Upfield’s Sally Smith said: “In the UK, Violife vegan alternatives to cheese have less than half of the climate impacts and occupy less than one third of the land when compared to the same amount of dairy cheese.

“By creating a variety of non-dairy cheese alternatives, there’s something to appeal to everyone.

“There’s a clear desire for change in the UK, as shown in the survey results. That gives us hope we can drive the change.”

To find out more from the World Economic Forum visit - https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/eat-less-meat-nudge-health-climate