Eating Less Meat, Better for Planet

September 09, 2011

Can cutting back on your meat consumption really have a huge effect on the environment? Yes, and a study out of Austria tell us why

What’s the best way to have the least impact on the environment? According to a study out of the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna), all you have to do is eat less meat. Eating a more well balanced, fruit and vegetable centric diet rather than the standard American diet, can provide ecological advantages. 

Professor Matthias Zessner from the TU Vienna and other researchers examined what the environmental effects would be of switching to a less meat centric diet. They found that eating this way would help to save more resources and cultivable land, versus buying organic foods. Much more land is used for animal agriculture than for vegetables; for example, in Austria, 3600 square meters (over 38,000 square feet) of soil are needed to feed the average person, if they are eating meat at most meals.

If meat consumption was reduced by half, and the consumption of vegetables and (whole) grains increased, “this would not only lower cancer rates and reduce the number of cardiovascular diseases, the area required for the production of food would be reduced from 3600 square meters to 2600 square meters per person.” Commented Professor Zessner. 

Researchers also concluded that a healthier diet would also reduce energy consumption in food production, and considerably less fertilizer would be needed. Carbon emissions would decrease as well – a well-balanced diet would save a third of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in food production.

So how should you shop? SupermarketGuru suggests you create a shopping list based on meatless recipes that you want to prepare for the next several days. Then head to your local supermarket and choose more vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits for your meals. Try starting out by cutting meat in one family meal a week, and then go on to cut out meat from every other dinner. There are plenty of delicious recipes that use vegetables and whole grains that will keep you feeling full, satisfied, the earth happy and your body healthy.