Our food choices don't only affect us, they also affect our planet. Meat isn’t the only source of protein out there, and it certainly isn’t the most eco-friendly, as nutrition expert Florian Nock explains.
Why meat production has a significant impact on our environment
Everything comes at a cost. As meat is nutritious, high in proteins, B vitamins, and minerals, it also has a higher impact on the environment than plant-based food. It requires more energy to produce meat as calories are lost for feeding the animals; up to 9 calories of plant-based food are required to provide 1 calorie of beef.
Furthermore, meat production is the single most significant contributor of methane to the atmosphere, a gas that has serious egregious effects on global warming. Different types of meat produce different levels of methane emissions; meat from cows and sheep usually necessitate more emissions than chicken, for example.
It’s not just emissions and food; agriculture uses more freshwater than any other human activity with nearly a third of our usage used for livestock. For instance, it can take up to 16000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef, four times the amount required for producing the same amount of beans.
What you can do to reduce your plate's footprint
Reduce your meat consumption
The idea that you "need meat to be strong" has been debunked many times. There are many plant-based foods high in protein that can help you optimize your gains. Moreover, many of these foods are also high in fibers that will support a healthy digestive system. If you're not intending to become vegetarian or vegan, you still can switch from meat to legumes and grains at least twice per week.
From red to white
Overconsumption of red meat is not only detrimental to our planet, but it can also have an adverse effect on our health. For the benefit of both your health and the environment, you should limit your red meat intake to one to two servings per week. White meat, eggs and dairy are excellent alternative sources of proteins, and they also have a smaller footprint.
Whether it's for your health or the environment, it's a wise option to go organic and local as much as possible for your meat, dairy and eggs. Meat and dairy from cattle fed with grass provide healthier fats than their inorganic counterparts. Moreover, the preservation and management of grasslands can contribute to carbon storage and support local farmers.
Food scientists and entrepreneurs are working to develop nutritious and tasty protein alternatives with a lower environmental impact. In the future, this could mean that we're eating algae, artificial meat or even insects.
Your personal food decisions have a significant impact not only on your health but also on the planet. We’re not saying that you should become vegetarian tomorrow, but taking time to consider what you eat and where it comes from is important not only for our own health, but for the planet as a whole.