As Americans when we plan out our weekly meals when going to the grocery store our meals consist of at least three meat dishes for the week. Sure meats are protein packed and considered good for us, but are they good for environment?
Trust me writing this article is hard for me to "stomach" as I am guilty of having meats in included in my meals at least three times a week. When I go grocery shopping I have at least one steak packaged item in my basket. I have never really thought about why I buy it but I guess I was just brought up, like many, with the idea that meats should be included in my meals. Now in 2016 we are hearing multiple reports that note having a high amount of meat consumed in our weekly diet can be bad for our environment which is in turn bad news for us.
Research shows that if we, globally, are to eat more fruit and veggies in place of red meat we would save millions of lives as well as trillions of dollars. The National Academy of Sciences published a report stating that changing our diets from high in meats to high in fruits and veggies emissions from the food industry would be lowered by 29 and 70 percent by 2050. I know you might be thinking that the range from 29 to 70 percent is pretty large, but there is a good explanation for that. There are different scenarios taken into account. The first is eating less meat which result in a 29 percent decrease while the other is globally switching to vegetarian/vegan diets which would then result in a 70 percent reduction. Keep in mind that emissions from agriculture and food production in three decades are calculated to account for about half of the worlds carbon budget.
So now that we have touched upon the environmental benefits of eating less or no meat lets touch upon the health benefits to us. Sure having a cleaner environment is a benefit, but what about the bodily health of the change. One study shows that imbalanced diets which are high in red meat consumption are a very large health burden globally. It also states that changing to a more fruit and veggie rich diet can avoid 5 million premature deaths globally by 2050. With healthier humans globally healthcare costs would be reduced by $1 billion a year!
Just this week the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, which creates the dietary guidelines for the Dutch nation announced a new recommendation. The centre recommended that people eat no more than two servings of meat per week. This is the first time that the centre has made a recommendation on the amount of meat a person should consume. The Dutch organization is making the recommendation after completing a 5 year study on the health and ecological impacts of a meat rich diet. Also, just last week the U.K. government backed nutritional body released a recommendation that is similar to the Dutch. Their recommendation is that several servings of meat be replaced with plant-based protein.
Here in the US we should take note from these countries that are standing by their recommendations on meat consumption. Just last year the US office of Agriculture and Health and Human Services updated their dietary guidelines, but left off the environmental piece. That was mainly due to the large backlash against having that piece included from the meat industry within the US.
Though our US government has not made official diet recommendations on our meat consumption we can still make a difference. We can make a conscious choice of what we are buying when we go to the grocery store next time. Maybe come up with creative recipes that put plant based proteins in place of meat. If you happen to come up with a few great recipes send them our way!