Air pollution is the largest environmental mortality risk in the U.S. The National Academy of Sciences says air pollution is responsible for 100,000 premature deaths every year, and one-fifth of those deaths are linked to agriculture. Scientists from five universities noted in the study that air quality is largely ignored in discussions on the health and environmental impacts of food.

“Agricultural production in the U.S. results in 17,900 annual air quality-related deaths, 15,900 of which are from food production,” the researchers said. “Of those, 80% are attributable to animal-based foods, both directly from animal production and indirectly from growing animal feed.”

The study authors also said that dietary shifts toward more plant-based foods that maintain protein content and other nutritional needs could reduce agricultural air quality-related mortality by 68% to 83%.

Agriculture groups like the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association told the Washington Post that they consider the report’s data and methodology flawed.

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