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.
With every passing year more and more research points out that eating a diet with less meat (than the average amount consumed per person) is good for your health and really good for the planet. This is good news in itself, and what’s better is that the post-boomer population are forcing restaurants to change their menu.
People are ordering less meat at restaurants, eating more veggie meals, and less likely to go to meat-focused resturants. This will decrease the carbon footprint of most people since veggie food requires less energy to make.
Earlier this year, the Chicago-based food research firm Technomic surveyed 1,500 people online and concluded that in order to attract millennial customers, restaurants must offer vegetarian and vegan meals. The report showed 45 percent of younger consumers either regularly eat vegetarian and vegan food or follow a vegetarian diet. The number falls to 30 percent in older people.
With the number of vegetarian dishes on restaurant menus growing and the number of vegetarian products in stores on the rise, it seems logical to assume the number of vegetarians is also growing. But the numbers, which have remained relatively flat in recent years, don’t support that.
Meat production is one of the main drivers of environmental degradation globally, and the crisis is rapidly growing worse. Production of beef, poultry, pork and other meats tripled between 1980 and 2010 and will likely double again by 2020. This ever-increasing meat consumption in a world of more than 7 billion people is already taking a staggering toll on wildlife, habitat, water resources, air quality and the climate. And Americans eat more meat per capita than almost anyone else. By reducing our meat consumption, we can take extinction off our plates and improve our own health along with the health of the planet.