Eating Less Meat is Good for You and Good for the Planet

August 6, 2014 in Our Planet
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Jenny Cottle
A new, and very dear friend got me thinking about the impact of eating meat on our changing climate. I was aware of the water consumption to grow beef and the issues with methane, but some reading on the topic was a revelation.

It is not just Good News, this is Great News – a small change in the way you eat can have a huge impact on the environment. Eat less red meat and go meatless one day per week.

Tim Benton, a University of Leeds professor in an interview with The Guardian said, “The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat”.

I’m betting about now that some of you are thinking – oh no – they want me to go vegetarian! And whilst this, in sustainability terms this would be best, by simply going meat free once a week and reducing how much red meat you eat you can contribute to drastically reducing the impact of climate change.

Raising animals for food is a huge contributor to climate change – it is responsible for 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions. Also, the livestock industry is responsible for large amounts of deforestation and uses huge amounts of agricultural land – up to 70%.

A recent study, Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States, has found that eating a pound of beef generates more carbon emissions than using a gallon of gasoline. That’s 450 grams of meat and 3.8 litres of petrol.

Beef_cattle_Polyface_FarmBeef production uses 28 times more land, 11 times more water, 6 times the nitrogen fertilizer and creates 5 times more greenhouse gas than the average of the other livestock categories (dairy, poultry, pork, and eggs) combined.

The meat industry also causes land degradation, air pollution, and water shortage and water pollution. According to a UN report this industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributions to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

By cutting back on meat we can make a really big impact. Al Gore’s Live Earth organisation has stated that if everyone in the US went vegetarian for just one day they would save almost 3.8 billion litres of water and 265 million litres of fuel – enough to fuel all the cars in Canada and Mexico combined.

The American Defence Fund states that if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off the US roads. So just imagine the impact of going meatless one day per week, and saving beef for special occasions.

And there’s another bonus – eating less meat will make us healthier because eating meat plays a role in heart disease, cancer and stroke.


So try it and improve health – yours and our planet’s.