The environmental impact of a roast dinner

Posted by Joshua Newton On September 12, 2010 0 comments

Roast lamb and roast beef are classic Australian dinners, and both are, in their own right, quite delicious. In recent years, however, there have been a growing number of articles in the popular press examining the environmental impact of eating meat. Which got me thinking: is it more environmentally friendly to eat lamb or beef? And how do these meats stack up against the other ingredients that are commonly used in a roast?

The data presented in the graph below relates to the amount of water (in cubic metres) and CO2-equivalent emissions (in tonnes) required to produce one tonne of the selected ingredients in Australia. Lamb appears to be more environmentally friendly than beef, at least when evaluated in terms of water and carbon emissions. Nevertheless, both meats have a substantially greater impact on the environment than vegetables. So, next time you are making a roast, think about using lamb instead of beef and consider reducing the amount of meat that you use.


  • Yes, pumpkin and onions are essential elements of a roast, but I couldn’t find Australian water consumption figures for these vegetables.
  • The Peters et al. (2010) paper provides several estimates of the CO2-e emissions associated with both beef and lamb production. The means of these estimates were used in the graph above.
  • The CO2-e figures relate only to the production of the raw ingredient. Thus, the energy required to transport and prepare these ingredients is not considered.

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