/ Food & Drink, Sustainability

Are your meat-eating habits harming the environment?

Lots of raw, red meat

As a ‘reformed vegetarian’, I’m familiar with the argument that eating less meat helps the environment, but a new report hits us with some hard facts. But will they encourage you to adopt a ‘demitarian’ lifestyle?

Experts say that cutting down on meat-eating could have a major impact on reducing nitrogen pollution, caused largely by livestock farming.

In fact, they worked out that the environmental cost of nitrogen pollution is up to £650 a year for every person in Europe.

Nitrogen pollution and the environment

Two hundred experts from 89 organisations across Europe studied the annual cost of nitrogen pollution on air, soil, water, increased greenhouse gases and damage to wildlife. They estimated a total annual cost of between £55-280 billion across Europe – or, up to £650 each.

But could cutting back on meat really make a difference? Lead editor Dr Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology thinks it can:

‘If we want to help the problem we can all do something by eating less meat. Eating meat is the dominant driver of the nitrogen cycle in Europe.’

The question is, will these figures motivate us to change our lifestyles? Will we really stop to consider the environment as we tuck into our ham sandwich or pepperoni pizza?

Does less meat make you healthier?

Luckily, the scientists aren’t suggesting we all give up meat completely – instead they’re suggesting a ‘demitarian’ diet, where we eat smaller quantities of meat with lots of veggie meals in between.

This is an apt description of my diet, so I’m feeling quite smug. I love meat, but I’m conscious about its origin and also enjoy eating vegetarian meals. But I’m constantly surprised to hear people claim that they couldn’t possibly eat a meal that doesn’t have meat in it.

Really? Personally, I start to feel sluggish and pretty rough after I’ve eaten too much meat – and there’s plenty of evidence to show that too much meat is bad for your health which puts me off too.

Only a couple of months, ago new advice came out recommending we eat no more than 70g of red meat a day – that’s three rashers of bacon or two sausages. The report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition warned that thousands of bowel cancer deaths could be prevented every year if people stuck to this limit.

Our own qualified nutritionist, Shefalee Loth, agrees with the recommendations:

‘Red meat is an important source of protein and iron in our diets, however two servings of red meat a week are enough to meet your iron requirements. Also, many vegetarian foods are high in protein such as dairy, soya, tofu and lentils and pulses.’

Does any of this research – or Shefalee’s advice – make you more inclined to reduce the amount of meat you munch? Or is there nothing that will part you from your carnivorous ways?

What would make you cut down on meat?

The effect on my health (36%, 523 Votes)

The expense (24%, 343 Votes)

Nothing! (20%, 295 Votes)

The effect on the environment (12%, 171 Votes)

My morals (9%, 124 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,064

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Lesley Asman says:
13 April 2011

I became vegetarian over 30 years ago for health reasons – I discovered that injected hormones which were causing cattle hooves to become mis-shapen were also having the same effect on cattle-eating humans’ finger and toe nails! “Not for me!”, I thought, and stopped eating meat and fish then.

I honestly believe that I am healthier now (at 65) than I would have been if I had continued as a carnivore. I am also richer (eating ‘good’ meat is expensive), enjoy a wonderful variety of foods with a multitude of tastes in a vast number of different recipes and, if it saves on harmful greenhouse production so much the better. I’ve continued eating dairy products however. Should I aim to become vegan?

I do not eat red meat – too expensive – I eat chicken – very cheap

I do eat lots of veg, fruit and dairy products.

I don’t think I’m any healthier at 80 – particularly as my father who ate massive amounts of meat – few veggies and very rarely fruit – died at 97 still being active to the last – very rarely ever being ill. But neither of us used salt much – I do not use it for cooking at all.

I am a carnivore my body construction says so – What we have are far far too many Human Beings.

I eat meat, I don’t really like too much else. Veg is much nicer with some beef stock gravy on it! As are most foods to be fair 🙂

Basically however it is worded, I will never stop being a carnivore. I have teeth for a reason and I use them to devour nice bloody fillet steaks, mmm, need some dinner now 🙂

Some weird beard scientist certainly isn’t going to change my POV, even less so when they say that going veggie will save the planet.

But then I don’t eat red meat every day, who can? I eat some type of meat product every day, just not red meat. You will probably find that the recommended “dose” of red meat is probably close to what most people eat anyway, facilitating the production methods used today.

Is this not more erroneous postulating from the Anthropogenic Climate Change lobby?

Sophie Gilbert says:
14 April 2011

Incidentally we human beings are all omnivorous, and we are endowed with omnivores’ teeth and digestive systems. It would be nice to stop using scientific words erroneously. Even in jest it’s insidious. Sheep aren’t vegetarian and I object to being disdainfully called a carnivore because I enjoy a steak now and again.

Otherwise, yes, absolutely agree, cut down on the animal flesh if you eat too much already. It will indeed be better for your health, your wallet, and for the environment.