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Do you need to drop the meat?

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Recently a landmark report was published and made significant headlines in the media; that if we are to save the planet, we need to eat more plants and significantly reduce meat, poultry, and dairy consumption.

There were some nuances in the report: reducing red meat is the clear priority, while foods like eggs, dairy, and poultry are more discretionary. However, it has made a lot of headlines, and many people are wondering where they stand on some favourite foods.

First off, do you need to go all out vegan? No, you don’t – and the report specifically acknowledged this. However, the report is also very clear in that when it comes to climate change, some of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gases are our food systems, with meat production far away the most significant factor, followed by the dairy industry.

So, what can you do? Simple acts will add up to make a big difference. You could try opting for more plant-based sources of protein, specifically lentils, chickpeas, and other beans. You could increase consumption of nuts. You could do two days a week without any meat or poultry, instead emphasise vegetables, some eggs and some yogurt to round out your protein sources.

One thing that is important is the airmiles behind your diet. Many people could fall into the trap of thinking once they’re not eating any meat, their diet is environmentally friendly, but they could be eating lots of almonds, avocados, and berries with a large carbon footprint due to the travel involved in getting these goods here. So, where possible, shift to supporting local growers and learn to love local produce. The health movement became quite obsessed with fancy ‘superfoods’, but they might not be so fancy for the environment.

It is clear that we can take a lot of action through the foods we eat. This isn’t about ditching your meat forever, more about being a ‘conscious carnivore’ and eating from local sources, while reducing frequency of intake.

Vegetarian meals also don’t have to be boring; Indian cuisine is a good example of delicious vegetarian cooking. So, perhaps get creative with your diet. Improving planetary health may also improve your health this year!