This post was originally published on April 20, 2015 and updated on December 27, 2019.
Your sandwich may be harming the environment. A 2015 Dietary Guidelines’ scientific report states that the average American diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy used compared to healthier, more plant-based diet. When it comes to land use, the answer is clear: Malaysia’s oil palm plantations are efficient. This eco-friendly country utilizes the smallest amount of land to meet much of the world’s vegetable oil needs. Less land use equals less deforestation.
What about the rest of the foods you eat? Discover how your typical American lunch stacks up.
Meats: Livestock is the single largest anthropogenic user of land, accounting for 71 percent of agricultural land, or 30 percent of land surface on the planet, according to a FAO report. Livestock is the largest driver of deforestation in the world. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines have concluded that a diet lower in animal-based foods, and higher in plant-based foods, is associated with less environmental impact, as well being more health-promoting.
Vegetable oils: Palm oil is the world’s most efficient vegetable oil crop. Malaysian palm oil plantations use ten times less land to produce the same amount of oil as soybean fields. In addition, this lush non-GMO tree crop absorbs eight times more harmful greenhouses gases than soybean plants. Oil palm plantations account for just 0.31 percent of the world’s agricultural land use, miniscule compared to livestock.
Fruits, vegetables and grains: The yield of edible crops produced varies widely, but on average an acre of prime land can produce 4,000 pounds of wheat, 20,000 pounds of apples, 30,000 pounds of carrots or 40,000 pounds of tomatoes. In comparison, an acre of land can produce just 250 pounds of beef.
The Malaysian palm oil industry is committed to sustainable agricultural policies that preserve our limited natural resources and protect our environment. Malaysia’s sustainable palm plantations are an integral component in securing a nutritious and safe food supply for future generations.
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.