Eating Better is calling on action by governments, the food industry and all those who can make a difference to encorage people to eat a greater variety of plant based foods and less meat; and to support farming that produces meat in ways that benefit the environment and animal welfare. This ‘less and better’ approach to meat eating can be fairer, greener and healthier for people and the planet.
Why it matters?
Feeding a growing and more affluent global population healthily, fairly and sustainably simply isn’t possible unless we make some changes. Reducing food waste and producing food with less harmful impact on the environment are both essential but not sufficient. Modifying our eating patterns must be a priority too. One vital, simple step is for people in high consuming countries like the UK to eat less meat and a greater variety of plant based foods as parts of healthy and sustainable eating patterns.
The benefits of Eating Better’s ‘less and better’ approach to meat eating include:
FAIRER: for farm animal welfare, for the hundreds of millions of people who lack sufficient food and for farmers who struggle to earn a sustainable living.
Increased production of meat has led to increasingly intensive production methods, particularly for pigs and poultry. Less intensive meat production can help ensure more people in the world have enough to eat. With 97% of soymeal and over a third of global grain harvest fed to animals, halving world consumption of grain-fed meat could feed 2 billion more people. An eating better approach encourages consumers and companies to support fairer returns for UK farmers producing ‘better’ meat.
GREENER: The food we eat carries a huge environmental footprint and meat is a ‘hotspot’ for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use, pollution, land use change and biodiversity loss – with livestock production the single largest driver.
A third of GHG emissions are due to the food system with meat typically the most GHG intensive part of our diet accounting for at least 14.5 per cent of global GHG emissions – as significant as emissions from transport. Without radical shifts in global meat consumption it is unlikely that temperature rises can be kept below 2 degrees C – the international community’s state aim to support a reduction in the impacts of climate change.
HEALTHIER: Shifting to more plant-based diets, with moderate amounts of meat in high meat consuming countries, such as the UK, will help reduce heart disease, obesity and cancers. If people in the UK ate meat no more than three times a week, 45000 early deaths a year could be prevented and the NHS could save £1.2bn a year. Eating less meat can also save money, helping people make healthier choices.
The World Cancer Research Fund recommends choosing fresh, unprocessed meat for the meat we eat, limiting red meat (pork, beef and lamb) to no more than 500g (cooked) a week and eating processed meats (including bacon, ham and salami) as little as possible due to the link between these meats and bowel cancer. Meat that has been produced to higher environmental and animal welfare standards can have health benefits over factory-farmed meat. For example, beef from grassfed cattle has nutritional advantages over grainfed options. Intensively produced farm animals are more likely to be treated with routine antibiotics – stopping overuse of antibiotics in farming is essential to save their vital role for human health.