For the sake of the planet, eat less meat
You want to save the world.
You’re young, idealistic and know that one of the biggest threats to humanity and the earth is man-made climate change.
You vote for politicians that support policies that will regulate our destructive industries. Maybe you go out and protest environmentally harmful actions or organizations. You tweet and blog. You set your Facebook status to some supportive message about the environment.
You eat less meat.
“Wait,” you might be thinking. “I what?”
You read that right. You eat less meat.
Trust me, this isn’t some kind of vegangelism, an abomination of a word combining vegan and evangelism. I eat meat myself, though I try to limit my intake to less than once a day. I’m lowering my intake because as an individual, avoiding meat is the single largest impact I can make on the environment.
Cutting down beef in one’s diet means six times fewer greenhouse gasses contributed to the environment per a minimum of 100 grams of food produced.
That’s just the bottom end of beef’s impact. At its worst, beef contributes up to 105 kilograms of greenhouse gasses per 100 grams of beef. Compared to tofu, the humble block of soy produces less than 3.5 kilograms of greenhouse gases.
Food production is already doing catastrophic damage to the earth. The agriculture industry spreads its deadly fingers through deforestation, water shortages and vast ocean dead zones. If we want to keep the global temperature rise under two degrees Celsius by 2050, we need to eat nine times less beef and five times as many legumes.
If we don’t aim for that, we risk droughts, floods and extreme heat. The “flexitarian” diet proposes to combat these environmental shifts by creating a meal plan that prescribes eating less than 300g of red meat per week for the average world citizen.
Some recommendations are even more stringent.
The “planetary health diet” was created as part of the research conducted by the EAT-Lancet Commission, a global nutrition initiative, in response to their findings that the planet’s current food production system is broken and unsustainable. The dietary plan stipulates eating less than 50 grams each of eggs, fish, sugar and meat per day.
The adaptation to this diet would be particularly difficult in Western countries, where we’ll have to forgo an especially meat-rich diet.
Going the extra mile to a meatless diet, however, isn’t completely necessary in some eyes.
Kurzgesagt, a well-known science-focused YouTube channel from Germany, suggests that eating meat-free one day per week will make a difference in environmental impact.
Scientists are also working on developing meat alternatives that won’t have a negative environmental impact. Research is being done to produce lab-grown meat, while options like the Beyond Burger, a plant-based burger that “bleeds” like meat, is already available.
In addition to eco-friendly meat production, the shifting of our farming practices would also have a positive environmental impact. Livestock grazing on rich, natural pastures — as opposed to livestock raised on deforested land — produces 12 times fewer greenhouse gases and uses 50 times less land.
Don’t get me wrong. I eat meat, and I believe humans should be omnivores. Sometimes, I love a good burger. Despite that, I’m also interested in saving the world.
So, I eat less meat.
Opinion columnist Ian Everett is a communications major and can be reached at [email protected]