UN Climate Change Report Making You Want to Cut Meat?

by FoodPrint

Published: 10/25/18, Last updated: 5/11/22

When the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its landmark 2018 climate report, it seemed that people were suddenly listening. Eco-anxiety is high and for good reason. The report found that the planet is warming more quickly than previously thought, and estimates that by 2040, the world will be in crisis, experiencing extremes of drought and flood. With extreme weather and its impacts devastating homes and farms across the country, and the UN’s sobering preview of a future only getting worse, we are all itching to do our part. One suggestion in the report — one that’s not dependent on government or big business to listen up and make real change — is for us all to eat less meat.

This news is not new. Ever read 1971’s “Diet for a Small Planet?” Still, we’re glad people are paying attention and are here to help.

1. Meatless Monday

Giving up meat just one day a week means decreasing your meat consumption by nearly 15 percent, effectively decreasing the problems associated with meat production by the same amount. Meatless Monday is a worldwide campaign to get people to reduce their meat consumption in a mindful way. They offer up tips and recipes for making your meat-free day delicious and satisfying.

Eating Sustainable Meat

Learn more about the benefit of eating less, but better meat.

Learn More

2. Less Meat, but Better Meat

Meat that has been sustainably produced — which generally means certifiably pasture-raised — can be more expensive, sure, but it’s also likely to be more delicious. And a little can go a long way. Buy a cheaper cut and use a small amount to flavor a vegetable- or bean-based soup. Use a little bit of bacon chopped up in a pasta or rice dish. Take one sausage and crumble it on polenta or throw it in tacos with tons of vegetables, so it can feed the whole crew. More less-meat ideas from Mark Bittman here.

3. Eat Beans

Speaking of beans, think specifically about moving beans to the center of your plate. They’re delicious and healthy, for starters. The Atlantic had this excellent piece a while back about the potential impact of making a meat/bean swap. You can also watch the companion video piece that lays it all out very clearly.

Learn about eco-anxiety and what it would be like if everyone ate beans instead of beef.

4. Think of Vegetables as the Star

The classic American plate was filled with a portion of meat twice the size of the vegetables. Instead, think like Michael Pollan, and “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The ideal modern plate is comprised of two-thirds vegetables and whole grains and one-third (or less) animal protein. To make that change, try out recipes that feature vegetables as the main element, like mushroom meatballs, stuffed squash or cauliflower steaks.

The FoodPrint of Beef

For in-depth information on beef and its sustainability issues, read our report, The FoodPrint of Beef.

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5. Give up Your Misguided Protein Obsession

In general, Americans have a protein obsession. Thanks to that old school American plate, as well as numerous high protein, fad diets, we’re eating about 100 grams a day. That’s about double the daily recommendation of 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. And high protein diets, especially those high in red and processed meats, are also associated with numerous health risks including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. You’re likely already getting all the protein you need, so cutting back is actually better for you.

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