Sustainable Putnam

Sustainable 5: Decreasing Meat Production and Consumption

According to the book The Blue Zones, which studied the diets and lifestyles of pockets of centenarians, people who lived to 100+ ate meat an average 1-2 times or less per week. Decreasing meat consumption is not only healthier but it has a lesser impact on the environment. Here are 5 simple ways to eat less meat.

  1. Eat meat once per day and observe meatless Mondays
  2. Crowd out meat with veggies and grains – fill 3/4 of the plate with veggies and grains and 1/4 or less of meat
  3. Think of meat as a condiment rather than the main staple of the meal
  4. Keep to one serving of meat per meal which is approximately the size of the palm of your hand or 4 oz
  5. Fix your plate in the kitchen so as not to be tempted by second helpings

From Sustainable Putnam’s Food & Agriculture page:

Meat production has a large ecological footprint — not only in shipping these products from distant countries to our own, but in water, land, and other resources. Beef and lamb in particular have a large carbon footprint because they are inefficient to produce. According to the World Resource Institute, beef requires 20 times more land and creates 20 times more greenhouse gas than beans grown on the same land. Chicken and pork require 3 times more. A 2013 study by the United Nations found that animal agriculture accounted for 14.4% of all greenhouse emissions, while beef accounted for 41% of that figure. The World Resource Institute estimates that beef accounts for half of land use and CO2 emissions associated with diets in the United States, but produces just 3% of the calories. 
In the last decade, industrialized meat production (primarily beef) has drastically affected the Amazon rainforest. In 2019 satellite images showed evidence of this rainforest being ravaged by fires illegally set by ranchers with the tacit support of the Brazilian government. The Amazon plays a role in cooling the planet by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere, and also has the highest biodiversity of anywhere on earth. It is vitally important to the plants, animals and indigenous people who call it their home.
Actions  The clearest answers are to eat locally and cut down on meat consumption, beef and lamb especially. Shopping farm stands and farmers markets, or even starting your own vegetable and herb garden are great options. Eating meat only once a day and having “meatless Monday” dinners are another good start. Another way to cut meat consumption is to use recipes that use meat as a flavoring component of the dish rather than being the star attraction. Here are some more recipe ideas. 
We can also buy meat locally at farmer’s markets. Buying locally cuts out transportation effects harmful to the climate, supports local agriculture, and gives you the opportunity to ask the farmers about how they raise their animals. Though the cost of these meats are higher than in the supermarket, so is the quality. Grass-fed animals have higher levels of nutrients such as Omega 3, linoleic acid and vitamin E. Buying meat directly from farmers, perhaps paying a higher price, may mean eating less, but higher quality, more nutritious meats. What’s more, buying local also strengthens our local food security, our local economy, and our social network. Knowing your farmer literally “pays off” in a higher quality of life for all of us! 

Jennifer Paolicelli is a wife and mom of two great kids who enjoys organic gardening, cooking and tending to her backyard chickens. Her background is in Occupational Therapy and she owns a local swim school.  Jennifer also graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as a certified holistic health counselor.