Bear with us when we say eating less red meat could make you a healthier person. So don’t zoom out just quiet yet, we don’t want to make you feel bad about eating meat (if you do!) but simply highlight why cutting down on your meat consumption could be a good thing, not only for your health, but for the planet.
Why is it bad for me, you ask?
Well, to start with, eating red meat too often can, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), increase the risk of getting cancer. And a study conducted by Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, concluded that eating red meat, and especially processed meat, “may be associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer, and increased mortality risk”.
Despite all this research, a majority of people choose to ignore and acknowledge the seriously adverse health effects red and processed meat can have. Meat is one of those things that lots of us feel is necessary to have on our plates and have little knowledge to what would be a suitable and tasty alternative. The interest is simply not there.
We’re not advocating a vegan lifestyle here, but rather that the health of a large part of the – especially western – population would hugely benefit of cutting down on the steak, instead of slapping it on the BBQ and cutting into it every day.
The Swedish study from Karolinska Institute found that eating more than 100g of unprocessed meat a day increased the risk of prostate cancer and bowel cancer by as much as 19% and 17 % and breast cancer by 11%
So even cutting down to just one small piece of steak, two sausages or five thick slices of ham each day, could make a difference for your health.
There are benefits too, but not for the planet…
Like most things, it’s not always that easy to make such a huge change in your everyday life, and completely cutting out meat might not be the best option for all of us. Because, it provides you, after all, with a good dose of protein, essential amino acids, vitamins including B12, minerals including heme iron and zinc and other micronutrient. The iron being important especially for women! But did you know you can get these nutritions from plant based alternatives? Check out this recipe blog, you simply won’t leave it without feeling inspired to give some veggie dishes a go!
Now to the saving our planet bit. The industry providing you with that juicy steak is incredibly bad for the environment. This is, for many of us, an even more compelling reason to cut down on the meat, and why some choose to go completely meat free.
Small changes such as swapping mince for lentils when making a bolognese goes a long way, and according to research by Oxford Martin School, shifting to a mostly vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by 63%, while also contributing to a healthier population.
Another thing to bear in mind as you purchase meat in a supermarket is that deforestation is happening all around the world to make room for plantations, grazing land and land to build houses on. In three decades the emissions from the agricultural sector are likely to account for about half of the world’s available “carbon budget”.
The meat industry has a huge role to play in this. The video below is from the Food Climate Research Network’s study “Grazed and Confused“, which discusses how the demand for meat is rising and thus the livestock emissions are rising too. It digs deep into the believed argument that grass fed beef is better for the environment and answers the widely discussed question if the way grass fed cattle graze the land – opposed to being grain fed – might actually help with lowering the emissions, by stimulating plants to grow and then remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The answer is…
… not true! While many of us think that by simply choosing to buy organic grass fed beef we’re doing our planet a favour, the study conducted by the The Food Climate Research Network shows otherwise. It states that “Grazing livestock, even in a best-case scenario, are net contributors to the climate problem, as are all livestock. Good grazing management cannot offset its own emissions, let alone those arising from other systems of animal production.”
According to a 2016 study, grass fed beef might even contribute more to the green house gas emission released than other livestock. Saying that “if you look at the amount of land used and greenhouse gas emissions produced per kilogram of meat, pasture-based cattle actually have a greater climate impact than animals fed grains and soy“.
‘But we’ve been eating meats for hundreds of years without a problem!’
Regardless of where you get your meat and how it has been raised, the problem might purely lie in the enormous consumption, of everything from bacon to steak, worldwide. Just look back a mare hundred years ago, when people might have been mostly meat eaters and the word vegan didn’t even exist – not until 1944! But the population was also a lot smaller, and with it now rising to be closer to two billion by 2050, we can’t all just consume meat and dairy products every day of our lives. And so much of what we buy go to waste anyway! The global food waste needs to be reduced in order to feed our growing population on the same amount of land that we do now. But that is another discussion to deep dive into another day.
So what can I do?
While not all of us are able to go completely meat free, focusing on reducing your and your family’s meat consumption, perhaps limiting it to just two or three times a week – or even once a week, will help a lot! Did you know that Meat Less Mondays is a thing?
A little really does go a long way and attempting to eat a more plant based diet, reduce your food waste and swapping beef for legumes for example, is not too tricky to do. You just need to get inspired!
And remember, even if you have that lentil burger instead of a meat one you can still have the fries. Which is, at least in this mama’s opinion, the best part anyway!
A Tribe Called Life