… and five tips for doing it without completely changing your lifestyle.
“We can think of our atmosphere as a budget and our emissions as expenses: because methane and nitrous oxide are significantly larger greenhouse expenses than CO2 in the short term, they are the most urgent to cut. Because they are primarily created by our food choices, they are also easier to cut.” said Jonathan Safran Foer, author of We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, during an interview with the Slow Food.
We always feel like we’re running out of time. Between work, family and other commitments, the days fly by and often what gets sacrificed is the time we should be dedicating to food. A quick trip to the supermarket and a ready meal or a rotisserie chicken seem like good solutions to the problem. But it’s just an illusion. The momentary benefit of having saved dinner might bring a sigh of relief, but the hidden costs behind our purchases in fact weigh heavily on both our health and the environment.
We need to recognize that our choices can make a big difference. Particularly when it comes to meat: We need to reduce consumption and choose quality meat from farms that respect the environment and animal welfare in order to at least attempt to solve the climate crisis. What’s more, the advantages of reducing meat consumption and carefully choosing what meat we eat bring plenty of other little-known benefits.
Here are five reasons for reducing our consumption, plus five tips for how to do it without it feeling like a sacrifice!
Reducing meat consumption is essential to minimizing global warming. All other options are not effective unless they are combined with a cut in the emissions from livestock farming.
INDUSTRIAL ANIMAL FARMING
The livestock sector is one of the main sources of climate-altering gases, bigger than the transport sector.
Responsible for 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions (“Livestock’s Long Shadow,” FAO 2006), the livestock sector—particularly enormous intensive farms—is one of the main sources of climate-altering gases, bigger than the transport sector, which contributes 13%. What’s more, at the global level, humanity is exploiting 59% of all the land capable of growing crops to grow food for livestock. We eat 65 billion chickens every year, and there are 30 farmed animals for every person on this planet (JSF, op. cit.).
The consequences are intensive crops that destroy soil fertility and the release of highly polluting substances from fertilizers and pesticides into the soil, water and air.
As if that wasn’t enough, a third of ALL the fresh water used by humans goes to livestock, while only about one-thirtieth is used in homes. Of course we’re not telling you all this to make you stop caring, but to show that reducing meat consumption is necessary.
#GoSlow 1: How?
Follow the Mediterranean diet, mixing up lots of different vegetables and legumes and eating no more than 500 grams of meat a week (including cured meats like ham and bacon!). Ask your butcher for meat farmed with respect for animal welfare and the environment. Why not visit a farm? It’s a good way to get to know local producers and try out direct purchasing. Here you can find a list of Slow Food Presidia livestock farms https://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/slow-food-presidia/?fwp_settori_presidi=breeds-and-animal-husbandry-en
Costs for biodiversity
Humanity is exploiting 59% of land capable of growing crops to produce feed for livestock; a third of cultivated land is planted with soy and corn monocultures.
If consumer demand is always focused on the same narrow selection of foods, only intensive production can meet this demand.
Since the dawn of agriculture, around 12,000 years ago, human beings have destroyed 83% of all wild mammals and half of the plants (JSF, op. cit.). This disaster has been fueled by meat factories that use only breeds selected for intensive farming. The livestock sector is the main culprit behind the overall loss of biodiversity on our planet, and a quarter of the animal breeds that have survived risk dying out in the coming years.
#GoSlow 2: How?
Varying what you buy means alleviating the pressure on certain species. And remember, there’s more than just thighs and breasts! All of us choosing the same few cuts of meat means lots of waste and more demand for more animals. Rediscover your local culinary traditions and see how different recipes call for different cuts. And try the recipes that we publish every Friday for a Meatless Monday!
3 Costs for our health
500 grams of meat a week are more than enough
The high consumption of red and processed meat, along with an excess of saturated fats, sugar and salt—and ultra-processed junk food in genera—is associated with heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain forms of cancer.
And let’s not forget that 70% of antibiotics produced globally are used for livestock, an abuse that reduces their effectiveness in curing human diseases. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most disturbing health emergencies facing humanity, according to the EU.
#GoSlow 3: How?
According to recommendations from the WHO and most nutritionists, 500 grams of meat a week is enough for a healthy adult. It’s not too little! Increase your consumption of legumes and other plant-based foods, turn to your local cuisine for inspiration and you won’t miss the meat.
4 Costs for animals
In 2018 over 99% of the animals consumed in America came from industrial farms.
Animals are sentient beings and deserve respect
Animals raised on factory farms are sentient beings reduced to being cogs in a machine, raw materials ready for processing and selling off cheaply. The animals live their brief, suffering-filled lives confined to narrow cages, often restrained and subjected to mutilations: beaks, tails and wings clipped, castrations carried out without anesthetic, calves dehorned at the age of 5 or 6 weeks to stop them injuring each other due to the stress and tension of an unnatural way of life. On intensive farms, animals rarely graze outdoors, and when they do they are restricted to small enclosures. Their horrifically unnatural diets cause serious health problems, in us and them.
Lastly, transport to the slaughterhouse usually involves many hours of travel in conditions that generate even more suffering, stress and fear. Just imagine, in 2018 over 99% of the animals consumed in America came from industrial farms. It’s a tragedy on a cosmic scale.
Make animal welfare your first priority. Trust in consortia, associations or farms that adopt strict standards for animal feed and welfare. Get informed, ask questions, expect more! Refuse meat from farms that don’t respect their animals. Read the labels, which can provide useful information about the type of meat you’re eating. Ask your butcher, influence your friends!
5 Costs to society
Out of all the fresh water used by humans:
A third goes to livestock
A thirtieth is used in homes
Moderating our habits means constructing a fairer world
In 2010 the prices of food products reached their highest levels since the 1990s. The growing demand for agricultural products is not just due to demographic growth, but also the use of these resources for purposes other than human food, like animal feed and biofuels, as well as financial speculation.
In the global south, meat is a luxury and hunger is the leading cause of death. Currently 900 million people do not have access to sufficient food or are malnourished, while 1.9 billion people are overweight.
By moderating our food habits, we can construct a fairer world. Many countries that have suffered decades of scarcity can increase their meat consumption, but we who abuse it must absolutely cut down. Now.
#GoSlow 5: How?
Don’t trust overly low prices, often an indicator of the poor quality of the diet fed to the animals, over-exploitation, hidden costs that impact on the environment and terrible conditions for workers in industrial farms and slaughterhouses.
The name of the Meat the Change campaign invites us to reflect on our food habits, which have so much impact on the climate crisis, and to consequently change the level of meat consumption in our diet. At the same time, it also asks us to make more conscious choices when buying meat, “meeting the change” and becoming active protagonists.
Use the hashtags #goslow, #meatthechange and #slowfood on your social media networks and help spread the campaign.
Every day, our decisions can have an impact on our health, but also the environment, and most importantly, the climate.
–> This article is part of the Meat the Change campaign, carried out to raise awareness among producers and consumers about the environmental impact of meat consumption and production. Find out more here