What’s one easy way to save the Earth and improve your health? Eat less meat.
A growing number of studies has drawn attention to the impact livestock — cows, pigs and sheep — is having on climate change.
Cows are a particularly big offender. Their digestive system produces methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide, and their manure emits additional greenhouse gasses. Cows also are resource-heavy animals. They require a higher amount of feed per unit, and the land needed to produce that feed also have a carbon cost associated with it.
“Current diets are pushing the Earth beyond its planetary boundaries, while causing ill health. This puts both people and the planet at risk,” according to the global EAT-Lancet Commission in a report released earlier this year.
The commission urged people to slash its consumption of meat, and sugar, by 50 percent and replace them with more fruits and vegetables.
That doesn't mean full-blown carnivores are being urged to go vegan, or even vegetarian. The emphasis is on reduction. Start slow and gradually reduce meat consumption, particularly beef and pork. Eliminate it from one meal a day, and then one day a week or perhaps adopt a “meatless Monday” plan.
Recommendations to reduce meat consumption aren't new. Last fall, another published study made similar guidelines for cutting back on the amount of meat that people eat.
Shifting to more plant-based meals and curbing meat consumption not only helps the planet, it also improves your health by lowering intake of saturated fat, lowering the risk of developing heart disease and cancer, the world’s leading causes of death.
The Climate, Land, Ambition & Rights Alliance believes people can make a difference in climate change by following a plan that includes the reduction of meat consumption to roughly two five-ounce servings per week. (It also recommends curbing dairy consumption to two glasses of milk and two four-ounce servings of cheese.) Beans, nuts and seeds are good protein substitutes for meat.
But if cutting back on beef and pork even for just one day a week sounds too tough, try a gradual switch by first subbing out the meat with poultry like chicken or turkey, which leave small carbon footprints.
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