Meat-eaters need to drop their consumption to the equivalent of half a slice of bacon per day or face a world that can’t sustain human food consumption and climate change, a new study has suggested.
A report from the EAT-Lancet Commission has called for a “global agricultural revolution,” to preserve the planet and prevent 11 million premature deaths ahead of 2050.
Researchers from 16 countries worked on the study which suggests radically cutting animal products in diets, instead replacing them with healthier plant-based proteins and nutrients.
Critics have said the research is not realistic and have accused those behind it of pushing for a “nanny state”.
What level of animals products should we be consuming?
The study recommends cutting consumption significantly. Up to seven grams of red meat or 29 grams of poultry to be consumed on a daily basis. That’s just half a rasher of bacon or around one and a half chicken nuggets.
Eating one and a half eggs a week would equal the consumption recommended by the study.
Scientists add that cutting weekly fish intake to 28 grams – around a quarter of a medium sized fillet – would have a positive effect on the environment.
What would I be able to eat?
- 7g of red meat per day
- 500g of vegetables and fruits
- 29g of poultry a day
- 28g of fish a day
- 1.5 eggs a week
Why is eating animal products so bad for the planet?
Using land to produce animal products has been scrutinised as an inefficient way to use the planet’s resources.
Livestock farming can have a detrimental effect on the environment due to the gasses produced by their digestive systems. In turn these heat up the planet, causing the loss of farming land as fertile ground becomes arid. The melting of ice caps is causing sea levels to rise and changing global weather patterns.
The world’s rainforests are shrinking as trees are axed to make way for farmland. Loss of habitat to make way for agriculture has been detrimental for the world’s species, the use of pesticides in farming threaten vital species both at home and abroad.
The study recommends “substantially reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, produce zero carbon dioxide emissions, and cause no further increase in methane and nitrous oxide emissions,” to preserve resources for future generations. It says cutting meat consumption is an easy win to achieve this goal.
What will happen if action is not taken?
The planet’s population is expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050. Scientists warn that Earth only has finite resources for food consumption – and if action is not taking these will run out.
Western-style high calories food laden with saturated fats are pushing the planet beyond its natural boundaries. Researchers add that ill-health and early death are being caused by the consumption of unhealthy foods.
Havard University’s Dr Walter Willett warned: “The world’s diets must change dramatically. More than 800 million people have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease.”
What should diets of the future look like?
Researchers say the solution lies in consuming 35% of our calories from whole grains and tubers, and getting protein from more sustainable plant-based foods. Consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas must double to help achieve the goals set out by the study.
Whilst the diet may, at a first glance, look super-restrictive; the reality is making small tweaks to a normal, healthy diet could help both health and the planet.
What your daily meals could look like under the recommendations
Starting the day with a bowl of porridge covered with banana or fresh fruit, using the equivalent of one glass of milk would use your daily dairy intake.
For lunch, salad would be on the menu. Whilst it may not sound exciting, adding kale, tomatoes and lentils could bring a bit of texture. Using your daily quota of fish could add extra flavour to a healthy lunch.
Dinner would bring flavour home with stir fry packed full of vegetables. Going vegetarian for a few days and saving up portions of red meat could allow for greater consumption later in the week – the diet doesn’t ban it, just warns to cut back. Advice from the NHS says that red meats can be high in fats, these in turn can lead to health problems including cholesterol and high blood pressure.
How could it be achieved?
The study says that one of the greatest barriers to the success of its reforms is the price of healthy food, adding that “social protection,” for low-income groups may be need do ensure they do not miss out.
It calls for the removal of fishing subsidies to discourage the industry, and for the land to be restored to its natural state to protect natural ecosystems.
“While this is uncharted policy territory and these problems are not easily fixed, this goal is within reach and there are opportunities to adapt international, local and business policies,” said Professor Tim Lang of City, University of London.
What has the reaction to the study been?
It would mean 80% of adults in the UK reducing their meat consumption significantly, according to The Institute of Economic Affairs. It says that this would not happen voluntarily and hit out at the authors of the study for campaigning for a “nanny state”.
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute said: “Their desire to limit people to eating one tenth of a sausage a day leaves us in no doubt that we are dealing with fanatics.
“They say they want to save the planet but it is not clear which planet are they on.”