• ALCAS President

LCA Surprises: Meal kits not as bad as you think


Sometimes LCA studies return results that seem counter intuitive. A recent study has done just that, with meal kits being found to have comparatively lower carbon footprints than might be expected.

Meal subscription boxes are criticised for being stuffed with packaging, including cardboard, little plastic bags and refrigeration packs, but a recent study has found that these kits actually have a smaller carbon footprint than the same meals made from store-bought ingredients. A team of researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a comparative life-cycle assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions produced for every phase of the meals’ lifetime, and found that although the subscription kits indeed had more packaging per meal, comparable grocery store meals yielded more greenhouse gas emissions than the kits.

A key factor reducing the meal kits’ carbon footprint was pre-portioned ingredients, which cut down on the amount of food used and the amount of waste produced. Grocery meals are not pre-portioned, resulting in higher food loss and waste. The study also cited that meal kits have lower last-mile transportation emissions than grocery store meals and that these services circumvent grocery stores, which generate large food losses by overstocking items and throwing away blemished products.

The study, although broad, shows the importance of looking beyond the immediate problem when it comes to assessing the sustainability of what we consume and how we consume it.

Read more about the meal kit study here.