Who could say no to a juicy hunk of steak? Or some crispy bacon cooked to perfection? Apparently a lot of people… me not included. The way that meat is farmed and produced can really harm the environment; so many people have chosen to cut meat from their diets completely. I come from a family of meat lovers, so the idea of cutting out meat from my diet has always seemed an impossible task even though there are so many benefits.
I want to play my part in living ethically, but I’m not ready to give up my fleshy friend just yet. So I read up on Eating Better’s new report about how to eat more sustainably and it inspired me with these five better ways to eat meat.
1. Eat less meat
The issue: Farming livestock produces huge amounts of greenhouse gases, through fertilisers, the breakdown of animal waste, deforestation to create farm-able land and my personal favourite – animal farts. These can have serious consequences for the climate.
What to do: This might be a difficult message for the meat lovers out there: Eat less meat. A third of the world’s cultivated land is used to grow animal feed. Halving the amount of meat eaten globally could free up enough food to feed two billion more people – and it would be much less harmful for the environment.
2. Eat good meat
The issue: Not all farmers treat their livestock well. The world’s increased demand for meat in recent years has seen an increase in intensive farming. This can restrict animals and harm their health. Often in intensive farming, animals are given regular low doses of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease where animals are in poor conditions. This is a big problem as it increases risk of antibiotic resistant infections from developing.
What to do: Look for meat with a credible animal welfare certification. Organisations like the RSPCA and Pasture for Life can tell you whether a farm treats their animals with respect. Animals in better conditions are also less likely to need antibiotics.
3. Eat less red meat
The issue: The average western diet doesn’t provide us with the right balance of nutrients and easily exceeds daily protein recommendations. Our diets are often rich in processed and red meats which have been linked to an increase in diseases like coronary heart disease and cancer.
What to do: Try to minimise the amount of processed and red meat you eat. You could choose unprocessed white meats instead.
4. Know where your meat comes from
The issue: Our culture does not place enough value on the food we eat, the animals who provide it and the people who produce it. We have become detached from producers and it makes us forget about the effect we have on the world around us.
What to do: Try to choose meat from small, high standard production systems that bring you closer to the producer. This could be through box schemes, farmers markets or independent butchers. It’s a great way to learn about where your meat comes from too.
5. Waste less
The issue: We waste huge amounts of fresh meat, often as a result of high demand for particular cuts of meat and low demand for others. This means we’re using animal carcuses inefficiently.
What to do: Plan your meals ahead to buy an appropriate amount of meat. Go to a butcher instead of buying pre-packaged meat, so that the correct amount of meat is weighed out for you. Try to be more adventurous with the cuts of meat you choose.
Whether you choose to buy responsibly or go meat-free, always try to find out where your food comes from and the impact it has on the world. It’s easier than you think to make a few small changes which can make a big difference. It all adds up – and together we can bring real change to this huge issue.
If you want to know more about eating meat responsibly, have a look at the Eat Better Meat report which inspired this article.