Agricultural Economics Department


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Agricultural Economics, Under the Supervision of Professor Azzeddine Azzam. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2014

Copyright 2014 Sarah Rehkamp


This thesis contributes to the literature on sustainable consumption by using scenario analysis to evaluate the environmental and health costs of the U.S. diet relative to the French, Japanese, Mediterranean, and Nordic diets, identified in the literature as healthier diets. As a first step in estimating environmental costs, the energy efficiencies of each diet are calculated by decomposing each of the diets into their respective components. Then, the dietary efficiencies are translated into CO2 emissions. As a first step in estimating health costs, a pooled cross-section time-series dataset is used to find the association between BMI and five countries, representative of the five diets. The costs are assessed using estimates in the literature of the social cost of carbon per ton and the health costs associated with an increase in BMI. Findings suggest that the U.S. diet is more environmentally costly than the Japanese and Mediterranean diets and less environmentally costly compared to the French and Nordic diets. All four alternative diets result in reduced BMI and, hence, reduced health costs compared to the United States. When aggregating the costs, the Mediterranean diet is the least costly when dietary compositions shifts, but total caloric consumption is held constant at the U.S. level. However, the Japanese diet is the least costly when both dietary composition and total caloric consumption are allowed to shift to the respective level in each diet.

Advisor: Azzeddine Azzam