Surprising eating figures help ‘meat’ our carbon targets

 In Air Pollution, News

News that daily meat consumption has fallen by almost a fifth in the last decade is a surprising but very encouraging statistic, says a Midlands green energy expert.

Ron Fox was commenting on research by Oxford University which revealed that people have reduced the amount of red and processed meat they eat, although they have increased their consumption of white meat such as chicken.

“This unexpected good news shows that consumers are listening to advice about what they can eat to help cut their carbon footprint,” he said.

The researchers used data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, a detailed survey of the dietary habits of more than 15,000 people across the UK, which showed that the daily total meat consumption had reduced by 17.4g per person per day from 103.7g in 2009 to 86.3g in 2019.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health, showed a drop of 13.7g of red meat while processed was down by 7g. During the same decade daily consumption of white meat increased by 3.2g to 35.7g.

Ron pointed out that producing meat has a higher cost on the environment, leading to more greenhouse gases compared to other types of agriculture and food production. 

This is because of the high methane emissions from cattle and sheep that push up global warming and that they use land that could be freed up to absorb carbon and boost nature.

Also, a high consumption of red and processed meat has been linked to health problems, such as a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

But he accepted producing chicken needed less land than beef and so had a lower effect on the environment and that locally produced meat is generally more sustainable than imported meat.

Ron said it was also encouraging that market research has suggested that almost 40 per cent of meat-eaters were actively trying to reduce their consumption, with many citing either health or environmental reasons.

He added: “You don’t have to be a vegetarian because any reduction in eating meat will reduce the environmental impact, but meat-free meals will have a bigger effect.”

For those who have difficulty cutting back the Oxford University researchers have suggested people start by reducing their portions and by trying one new vegetarian recipe a day rather than going a whole 24 hours without meat. 

“Although these figures are a big step in the right direction,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park in North Staffordshire, “we have to remember that the National Food Strategy has set a key national target of cutting meat consumption in our country by 30 per cent by 2030, so there is still some way to go.”

To find out more about green energy and environment issues call Ron on 0845 474 6641.

Caption:  A reduction in the amount of red and processed meat being eaten is helping reduce our carbon footprint.

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