The meat industry is one of the leading drivers of the recent spat of fires in Brazil, and globally the meat industry is a major factor in the climate crisis. If we’re going to avert catastrophe we’re going to need people to change their diets in one simple way: cutting out meat. If people don’t want to cut out meat entirely, that’s ok, as long as they reduce their meat consumption. As a society we can reduce everyone’s meat consumption very easily by just providing meatless meals in cafeterias.
Emma Garnett and her colleagues at the University of Cambridge, UK, collected data on more than 94,000 meals sold in 3 of the cafeterias at the university in 2017. When the proportion of meatless options doubled from one to two of four choices, overall sales remained about constant. But sales of meat-containing meals dropped, and sales of vegetarian meals, such as “wild mushroom, roasted butternut squash and sun blushed tomato risotto with parmesan”, rose 40–80%.
If Americans started eating beans in place of beef the country would be able to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals by 2020. The report, title, “Substituting beans for beef as a contribution towards U.S. climate change targets,” builds off of previous work. The new report that makes this conclusion is similar to the conclusions from other papers; however, this report directly connects an easy dietary change to being able to avert catastrophic climate change. Previously we’ve seen how easy and beneficial it is to be vegetarian, but this diet change doesn’t require a complete shift to vegetarianism. Just reduce the consumption of flesh from dead animals.
It’s simple: the easiest thing you can do today to help the people of tomorrow is to eat less meat.
“The nation could achieve more than half of its GHG reduction goals without imposing any new standards on automobiles or manufacturing,” Sabate said.
The study, which was conducted while Harwatt was an environmental nutrition research fellow at Loma Linda University, also found that beef production is an inefficient use of agricultural land. Substituting beans for beef would free up 42 percent of U.S. cropland currently under cultivation — a total of 1.65 million square kilometers or more than 400 million square acres, which is approximately 1.6 times the size of the state of California.
Harwatt applauds the fact that more than a third of American consumers are currently purchasing meat analogs: plant-based products that resemble animal foods in taste and texture. She says the trend suggests that animal-sourced meat is no longer a necessity.
Consuming meat as part of your diet increases your carbon footprint by a large factor. It take a lot more energy to produce meat than it does to produce plants. Indeed, many institutions have called for people around the world to consume less meat while increasing their fruits and veggies intake.
China has issued new dietary guidelines that encourage less meat consumption in hopes that it frees up resources (land, energy, etc.) for other means. Given the size of China’s population even a small percentage of Chinese changing their diets will make a difference.
New dietary guidelines drawn up by China’s health ministry recommend that the nation’s 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day. The measures, released once every 10 years, are designed to improve public health but could also provide a significant cut to greenhouse gas emissions.
Should the new guidelines be followed, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from China’s livestock industry would be reduced by 1bn tonnes by 2030, from a projected 1.8bn tonnes in that year.
Globally, 14.5% of planet-warming emissions emanate from the keeping and eating of cows, chickens, pigs and other animals – more than the emissions from the entire transport sector. Livestock emit methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while land clearing and fertilizers release large quantities of carbon.
Producing food takes a lot of energy regardless of where it comes from, but some foods require a lot more input than others. In general it takes way more energy to feed people meat than it does a plant based diet because the animals need to be fed before they are slaughtered. A meat diet impacts the environment in a negative way.
Fret not though as you can greatly lower your carbon emissions by just eating less meat. It’s easy to be vegetarian, and it’s even easier to slowly transition to a plant focussed diet. Furthermore, not only is switching to a primarily plant based diet good for the planet it is also good for your health. It’s a simple way to make the world and yourself better.
If the global population followed the health eating guidelines published by the World Cancer Research Fund International and World Health Organization, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would drop 29 per cent compared to the baseline scenario. The elimination of red meat and poultry entirely would lower emissions by 55 per cent, while a vegan diet would reduce them by 70 per cent. Rates of early mortality would also decline by 6 to 10 per cent, depending on the scenario.
Consuming less meat is one of he best things you can do for your health and for the environment. Indeed, it’s so evident that a meat free diet is excellent that organizations around the world are calling for people to change their diets. One of the myths about reducing meat consumption is that one won’t get enough protein.
Here’s the good thing: if you have a diverse amount of food in your diet you have no need to worry about protein. So save the planet, help your health, and reduce your meat consumption.
The consensus among many doctors and dietitians these days seems to be that if you are eating a diverse array of foods, you don’t need to stress about protein. The Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight (adjusted slightly if you’re active, ill, or pregnant). I’d need about 42 grams to meet my requirement; when I added up everything I ate earlier this week, I was startled to discover that I had eaten 66 grams without thinking twice—and I don’t eat meat. Considering a single serving of chicken breast clocks in at 31 grams and a piece of skirt steak at 22, it’s easy to see why Americans frequently double-dip on their protein allowances. (Calculate your own daily allowance here.)
Gardner also worries that in our hunger for protein, we’ve begun skipping real foods. We’re saying, “‘I’m not going to eat food, I’m going to have a bar as a meal’—which means that it’s coming with fewer of the natural nutrients of food,” he says.