Who knew: Cheese is worse for the environment than pork, poultry and even farmed salmon. The only foodstuffs that have a worse environmental footprint per four ounces consumed are beef and lamb. Okay, so some people were already well aware of this, but as big fans of fromage the news still caught us by surprise. But if it is so bad for the environment, what is a conscientious cheese consumer to do? Well, eat less to start.
Part of the problem with cheese is that it takes a whole lot of milk to make a tiny bit of cheese. About 10 pounds go in to make the average pound of hard cheese. And that milk, generally speaking, comes from a cow that we all should know by now is emitting a fair amount of methane (as well as manure and other gasses). Add in the gasses and waste associated with feeding that cow to get that milk and you've got yourself quite the the footprint. And before you start running off to stock up on sheep or goats milk-based cheeses we should probably point out that they aren't much better.
However, you do have a few options if you're determined to reduce your carbon impact. Environmental Working Group, whose recent report is the reason we're aware of the environmental dangers of cheese, recommends eating lower-fat, less dense cheeses as well as trying to support local producers. Even better, those cheeses are generally pretty good for you. They also recommend eating less cheese in general.
Still, one other thing about the environmental impact of cheese worth noting? EWG's report compares the impact of four ounces of many different food products (see the awesome graphic on page four) but while many people can eat a quarter-pound of beef in a sitting (if not a pound) folks are far less likely to eat the same amount of cheese. (Unless they're inhaling it in the form of Cheesy Poofs.) Also puzzling: There's still no hard data on the environmental impact of the human breast milk cheese.