Seafood more nutritious and less polluting than beef, study finds

The authors assessed the nutritional content of dozens of seafood species around the world and the carbon emissions produced to harvest them, and compared the results to the three most important terrestrial proteins.

The result is really significantsays study co-author Peter Tyedmers, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University.

The majority of available seafood that comes from capture fisheries or aquaculture is highly nutritious compared to other major sources of animal protein.

The study was an international effort with researchers in Sweden looking at data collected around the world.

Ecological economist Peter Tydemers co-authored the study comparing seafood species to beef, pork and chicken.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Robert Short

It reveals that farmed oysters and mussels, wild salmon, herring, anchovies and mackerel have the highest nutritional value with the lowest carbon footprint.

Some crustaceans such as shrimp and lobster then cephalopods such as squid or octopus have crops with higher carbon emissions.

Fuel use is the largest part of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in wild peaches.

There is a fair amount of fuel that is burned for every kilo of lobster landed at the end of the daysays Peter Tyedmers.

Study methodology

The study ranked 41 seafood species by nutrient density by measuring 21 beneficial nutrients like vitamins, fatty acids and proteins in the edible part of the species. The researchers also measured less desirable contents like saturated fat and sodium.

For 34 of these species, the authors were able to quantify carbon emissions per kilogram.

The global average performance of all seafood evaluated in this study, weighted by species production volume, has higher nutrient density than beef, pork and chicken and lower GHG emissions than beef and pork.

Half of the seafood species had both higher nutrient density and lower greenhouse gas emissions than beef, pork and chicken.

Pork was just below the seafood average in terms of nutrient density and emissions.

Chicken has a much lower nutrient density, comparable to the lower rated seafood groups.

Cows in a field.

Beef is less nutritious and more polluting than any other food analyzed by the study published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Miriane Demers-Lemay

Then beef ranks below the average nutrient density of seafood, and results in carbon emissions. GHG higher than any other food analyzed.

Change your habits

The document also shows that a kilo of red meat produces five times more carbon than lobster.

If there are possibilities to replace a minced meat patty with any seafood, it is a positive action for the climatesays the co-author of the study Peter Tyedmers.

He hopes the results will encourage the Canadian seafood industry to be more transparent about its operations, including fuel consumption. In his view, the companies have become increasingly secretive over the past two decades.

Now it is almost impossible to get a fishing company, ship owner, fleet manager to share datahe said. It’s not a threat to seafood. It’s a huge opportunity.

With information from Paul Withers of CBC

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