Livestock are a significant contributor to food-related emissions. Cheese and animal products generally have a higher carbon footprint than plant-based foods, with products from ruminant animals such as cows, sheep and goats having a particularly high climate impact. This is mainly due to the methane these animals release from digestion, a greenhouse gas which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming. Cattle also require large amounts of land for grazing or to grow their feed. This is driving deforestation in many areas, which releases more greenhouse gas emissions, as well as leading to biodiversity loss.
Many people don’t realise the high carbon footprint of cheese (8.4kgCO2e/100g protein) which, on average, is almost double that of chicken (4.3kgCO2e/100g protein) according a study published in Science. Soft cheese and plant-based alternatives generally have a smaller carbon footprint than hard cheeses. Hard cheese usually requires more milk than soft, which means higher emissions associated with livestock and farming. Hard cheeses are also usually cooked and aged for longer. The energy used to cook and then keep them cool as they age means that emissions from processing hard cheese are generally higher than soft or plant-based alternatives.