Is Less Meat, but Better Meat the Answer?
You might have asked yourself: should I stop eating meat to help the environment?
It’s a topical question and one that’s not going to go away any time soon given the latest instalment of the country’s National Food Strategy, advising we reduce our meat intake by a third in the next decade. This is to meet the UK commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and to help protect food security for the future.
However, the answer is not necessarily as clear cut as you may think, with lots of different factors to take into account, such as how and where the meat is farmed, and the carbon footprints of different meats for example.
Most people now accept that reducing our meat intake would be good for the environment, but what sort of meat we are eating is often overlooked. Sheep and cows contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than other animals such as chickens.
Beef costs the environment the equivalent of 16kg of CO2 per kg of meat, whereas chicken accounts for 4.4kg of CO2. This means that if you swap your beef meal for a chicken meal, it would lead to a 3.6-fold reduction in CO2. But this only really matters if you get the right type of chicken. Environmentally-speaking, a nice steak of organic beef from Devon will beat a chicken breast from an intensive farm any day, especially one that’s been imported.
So it’s important to consider the farming method, and not just the type of meat. Livestock that has been intensively farmed, where animals are kept indoors and bred to grow abnormally, is certainly the sort of meat we need to stop eating now. Thinking carefully about where your meat comes from can have a great effect on reducing any negative impacts on the climate and environment.
The best methods of farming, including regenerative agriculture, produce fewer harmful gases, protect wildlife and keep soils healthy. So a diet that includes this type of meat can actually have a positive impact on the environment, on animal welfare and on your health.
So if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as eating less meat, choosing climate and nature-friendly meat is even more important. Look out for local, grass-fed, free range and organic meats whenever you can. That way you’ll know you are doing as much as you can to lessen your impact on climate change. And remember that this applies to everything you eat, not just meat. Selecting local and seasonal fruits and vegetables, organic when possible, is also critical to this debate.
For a positive effect on the environment, you need to consider the whole ecosystem. There is no simple solution. No single source of food to take up or ditch. For us, it’s all about making choices every day that prioritise:
Less miles to the table