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Unveiling five common myths about the environmental impact of ingredients

As we strive to help food businesses navigate their sustainability journey, we often encounter widespread misconceptions about the environmental impact of ingredients while having conversations with customers and operators in the industry. 

Which is why we summoned our team of climate experts to help debunk five common myths and shed some light on the realities of food ingredients’ environmental impact.


MYTH #1: Local Ingredients Are always Better for the Environment

Supporting local economies with our grocery choices is commonly considered the right thing to do, but the environmental benefits of local ingredients can be more complex than they appear. 

When weather conditions are unsuitable for growing produce in open fields in the local climate, glass-heated greenhouses are used instead. While greenhouses typically yield higher outputs, their construction and maintenance demand energy in the form of heat and electricity, which significantly increases greenhouse gas emissions.

Thus, local food isn't always more environmentally friendly than imported food; what matters most is whether it's in season in the country where it's farmed. In fact, for most food products, transportation accounts for only around 5% of the overall carbon footprint (1) unless air transport is used, which has a much higher carbon footprint. 

If not in season, local produce might actually involve higher emissions than produce imported from countries where it’s grown in an open field. Tomatoes are a good examples of this (2,3):




MYTH #2: Organic Farming Is Always the Greenest Option

Nowadays, organic is often seen as a synonym for healthy and sustainable, but that’s not always the case. Several factors - such as lower yields and farm management practices - can play a big role.

For instance, in animal farming organic methods can have a slightly worse climate impact than conventional methods, which is the case for poultry and pork in particular. This is because animals spend more time outside, leading to more emissions from manure, and they require more feed due to longer lifespans and lower productivity.

In general, organic farming often yields less than conventional methods, with studies utilizing Life Cycle Assessments showing an 8-25% drop in productivity (4): this can lead to higher overall greenhouse gas emissions. 

Nonetheless, despite the lower yields, organic farming shines in other areas: it boosts biodiversity, improves human health, enhances animal welfare, and enriches soil fertility.


myth #3: All Plant-Based Ingredients Have a Low Carbon Footprint

Plant-based ingredients are frequently listed as the solution to reducing food-related emissions, and they do indeed play a crucial role. 

However, not all plant-based ingredients are created equal. For instance, rice is not as environmentally friendly as one might think. This ingredient has a high-ranking carbon footprint of about 3.7 kg CO2e/kg (5), compared to potatoes which have an average value of 0.2 kg CO2e/kg (6) and pasta which has an average value of 1.5 kg of CO2e/kg (7). Overall, rice cultivation is responsible for 10-13% of worldwide methane emissions (8), making it a rather emission-heavy ingredient.




myth #4: Packaging Is Our Worst Enemy

Food packaging has been in the spotlight for a while now, with many brands turning to eco-friendlier, recycled solutions or incentivizing reusable containers. 

While adopting eco-friendly packaging is a noble cause, it’s worth noting that only about 9% of food emissions come from processing and packaging (9), resulting from energy-intensive processing plants and the production and disposal of packaging materials.

In fact, the bulk of  food emissions—around 72%—stem from the less commonly discussed farming activities (9). This includes crop and feed production, livestock rearing, aquaculture, capture fisheries, and deforestation.  According to recent data, 50% of the world's habitable land is used for agriculture and almost 90% of deforestation is driven by agriculture and pasture grazing.


MYTH #5: Meat from Grass-Fed Animals is Always Better for the Environment

The livestock sector contributes to about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (10) overall. Nonetheless, recently there has been a lot of controversy around grass-fed beef and how its climate impact stacks up against other meats or more intensive production systems.

Even though grass-fed meat can have benefits, such as better animal welfare and soil health, it often requires more land and can result in higher methane emissions compared to grain-fed meat. While grazing ruminants do contribute minimally to soil carbon sequestration, this benefit is small, temporary, and outweighed by the greenhouse gasses they emit (10).

Therefore, while grass-fed livestock can play a role in a sustainable food system, it's still a limited one. Even if grass-fed beef has some benefits compared to other meats - especially in terms of animal welfare - it’s not as sustainable as it might sound in the public discourse.



Understanding the environmental impact of food ingredients requires a nuanced approach. 

By debunking some common myths, we hope to encourage more informed decisions that consider the full lifecycle of products. At Klimato, we’re committed to providing the tools and expertise needed to navigate these complexities. Whether it’s through carbon labeling, climate reporting, or a tailored food carbon reduction strategy, we’re here to help you make choices that are genuinely sustainable.

Ready to dive deeper into sustainability? Let’s start a conversation about how we can support your journey towards a greener future - one meal at the time.





  1. Crippa et al., 2021
  2. Neira et al., 2018
  3. Denny et al., 2012
  4. Reganold et al., 2016
  5. Clune et al., 2017
  6. Djekic et al., 2014
  7. Poore et al., 2018
  8. Klimato Carbon Footprint Database
  9. Crippa et al., 2021
  10. Garnett et al., 2017