Wherever we fall personally on the vegan-to-carnivore spectrum, North Americans are directly responsible for huge amounts of methane, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, fuel consumption, feed, water, and manure. All are linked to our love affair with meat and dairy. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) wants us to be more conscious of the impact on our environment and our health.
EWG’s new report, Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health, follows on the heels of earlier reports that pegged meat eating to its environmental and health costs (Livestock’s Long Shadow, Have Your Meat and Eat It Too!, Livestock in the Balance). The guide’s key advice: Eat less meat and cheese. Make greener choices.
The reports uses lots of clever and startling graphics to bring its message home. The Eat Smart chart shows the carbon footprint of different foods, comparing them to the number of car miles driven per 4 oz. Tomatoes ranked low, at less than a quarter of a mile per 4 oz. Lamb was off the chart, ranking a carbon footprint that was 50% higher than beef (which came in at just over 6.5 miles).
Meat Lifecycle: From Cradle to Grave is an interactive chart that shows climate and environmental impacts at every step of the meat and dairy supply chain. Anyone confused by some of the terminology will find help Decoding Meat + Dairy Product Labels, such as “cage-free,” “certified humane” and “rBGH-free”.
Although the message is not new, Meat Eater’s Guide brings it together in a convenient and user-friendly form. Reaction has been swift and largely favorable, though the editor of Drovers CattleNetwork labeled the report and the positive responses, “anti-meat chatter” in an editorial with the headline, “Meat grower’s guide to hogwash and B.S.”
With a burgeoning world population increasingly hungry for the meat-and-cheese diet beloved in North America, status quo is not a sustainable option. EWG’s new Meat Eater’s Guide comes at a critical time in the discussion.
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Photo from Cathryn Wellner
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