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Beans Until the Cows Come Home

“A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact—more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering.”


Food labels like vegan, paleo, and keto often provoke heated debate that a certain diet can better our planet and economy. Likewise, a concern about a souring climate change and its implications, dependent on government, cause what The Atlantic refers to as “ecoanxiety.”  What if forgoing food labels could significantly aid our environment and economy while also bypassing policy change? A study shows how all it takes is swapping beef for beans.

(AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

The cattle diet is primarily made of beans. According to The Atlantic article released on August 2, the yield of meat acquired from these cattle, however, is far less caloric than the amount of calories consumed in beans that are necessary to plumpen them up for the market. If humans consumed beans instead of meat, far fewer beans would be consumed than would be eaten by cows and less meat. As a result, there will be an enormous reduction in gas emissions and deforestation.

The study published in the July 2017 volume of Climatic Change, showed that should the American population just substitute beans for beef, a comparable source of high protein, then not only will fewer beans be harvested, freeing up U.S. cropland by 42 percent, but 2020 gas emission goals signed off by The Obama administration in 2009 will be met despite the current administration opposition and denial of the negative impact of climatic change.

In choosing beans over beef, culinary classifications are sidelined in favor of a grassroots upheaval of the trickle-down effect that Washington policy could have on our environment and economy. Beans are not only high in protein, are relatively lean, and filled with fiber so they promote satiety just as a burger would. Since they are also strikingly similar to meaty texture, it makes for a popular ingredient in veggie burgers, and even your most traditionalist guest may not even detect the difference. Who had to spill the beans?

This article was written for Better Bean by Reshmi Kaur Oberoi, a writer, and lover of beans. 

To read the full article in the Atlantic, check out

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