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The environmental impact of beef and ultra-processed food consumption in Brazil

da Cruz, G. L., da Costa Louzada, M. L., Silva, J. T. , Maria Fellegger Garzillo, J., Rauber, F., Schmidt Rivera, X, Reynolds, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-1073-7394 & Levy, R. B. (2024). The environmental impact of beef and ultra-processed food consumption in Brazil. Public Health Nutrition, 27(1), article number e34. doi: 10.1017/s1368980023002975


This study evaluated the independent and combined environmental impacts of the consumption of beef and ultra-processed foods in Brazil.

Cross-sectional study.


We used food purchases data from a national household budget survey conducted between July 2017 and July 2018, representing all Brazilian households. Food purchases were converted into energy, carbon footprints, and water footprints. Multiple linear regression models were used to assess the association between quintiles of beef and ultra-processed foods in total energy purchases and the environmental footprints, controlling for sociodemographic variables.

Both beef and ultra-processed foods had a significant linear association with carbon and water footprints (p < 0.01) in crude and adjusted models. In the crude upper quintile of beef purchases, carbon and water footprints were 47.7% and 30.8% higher, respectively, compared to the lower quintile. The upper quintile of ultra-processed food purchases showed carbon and water footprints 14.4% and 22.8% higher, respectively, than the lower quintile. The greatest reduction in environmental footprints would occur when both beef and ultra-processed food purchases are decreased, resulting in a 21.1% reduction in carbon footprint and a 20.0% reduction in water footprint.

Although the environmental footprints associated with beef consumption are higher, dietary patterns with lower consumption of beef and ultra-processed foods combined showed the greatest reduction in carbon and water footprints in Brazil. The high consumption of beef and ultra-processed foods is harmful to human health, as well as to the environment, thus their reduction is beneficial to both.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Ultra-processed foods, Carbon Footprint, Water Use, Nutritional Epidemiology, Brazil
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of the-environmental-impact-of-beef-and-ultra-processed-food-consumption-in-brazil.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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