Radical meat reduction needed in Western countries

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

January 18th, 2019

A new “planetary health diet” with a radical decrease in meat consumption would transform the future of our planet and prevent millions of deaths, a new landmark scientific report has found.

The dietary guidelines devised by an international commission of 37 scientists point to a need to reduce red meat consumption and sugar consumption by 50 per cent in western countries by 2050.

The findings produced in the Lancet medical journal found that tackling today’s environmental crises would not be possible without this radical transformation in our diet and lifestyle.

The scientists behind the guidelines have acknowledged the potential difficulties in implementing the new diet but have called for “unprecedented global collaboration and commitment”.

“Food is the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability on Earth,” the report states.

The science-based diet recommends a two-fold increase in the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts and sets specific dietary guidelines for certain western regions.

North Americans, for instance, should cut their consumption of red meat by 84 per cent and consume six times more lentils and beans to meet the new dietary standards.

The report reveals that people in North America consumed more than six times the amount of red meat recommended under the planetary health diet.

For Europeans, scientists have recommended a 77 per cent reduction in the consumption of red meat and a 15-fold increase in consumption of nuts and seeds to come in line with the objectives of the eco-friendly diet.

Zero Waste Food Photo: Niall Sargent

Largely plant-based

Global consumption in 2016 of starchy vegetables, red meat and eggs was more than 100 per cent of the planetary health diet’s allocation, according to the report.

Scientists have also analysed the impact of dietary changes on diet-related disease mortality and concluded that adherence to the proposed dietary model could prevent 11 million deaths per year.

Poultry and a limited intake of eggs and dairy products are allowed in the planetary health diet, but they are not strongly recommended.

The diet is largely based on plants and would not allow for the intake of more than 2,500 calories a day. It allows for the consumption of one beef burger and two servings of fish a week so long as they are complemented by fruit and vegetables.

Professor Johan Rockström, one of the authors of the report, said that radical transformation in food production processes are “urgently” needed to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

“Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystems resilience. It constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries,” Prof Johan Rockström added.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.