Would You Halve How Much Meat You Eat?

We need to halve the amount of meat we eat or risk causing even more damage to the natural world than we already have, says a new report from the United Nations Environment Program. Entitled Our Nutrient World: The challenge to produce more food and energy with less pollution, the report underscores the unpleasant truth about how modern farming practices are creating more food, and more meat in particular, at lower cost but at a terrible price to the long-time health of the planet.

Eating less meat is a challenge many may shrink from, but it is one that people in wealthy nations must take up, says Professor Mark Sutton, the lead author of the report. Just a generation or two ago, people ate quite a bit less meat. The U.N. report asks people not to stop eating meat entirely, but presents the case for a more measured approach, urging people to go “demitarian” and cut the amount of meat they consume by half.

Raising Livestock Consumes Precious Natural Resources

Previous studies have underscored how many more resources — water, arable land, grain — are used up in raising livestock rather than in cultivating crops. In addition, to provide plenty of meat at cheap prices, the farming industry has come to rely on an ever-larger arsenal of techniques and tools (pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, fertilizer, cages so small that animals cannot move) that are unethical and inhumane.

Our insatiable demand for meat has actually “caused a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health.” The numerous chemical substances we have devised to improve the quality of meat has only done so in the short run. Run-off from chemicals has played a role in “dead zones in the seas, causing toxic algal blooms and killing fish, while some are threatening bees, amphibians and sensitive ecosystems,” says the Guardian.

We need look no farther for evidence of what is wrong with the modern meat industry than the ongoing horse meat scandal in Europe. Just this week, Nestle announced that it was withdrawing some of its products over concerns about horse meat, which has turned up in other manufacturers’ frozen meals and “extra value” — cheaply priced — burgers. “The attention this meat scare has drawn [highlights] poor quality meat. It shows society must think about livestock and food choices much more, for the environment and health,” said Sutton in the Guardian.

Can You Be a “Demetarian”?

Nonetheless, billions of people in developing countries should still increase their meat consumption, says Sutton. In order for this to happen, people in wealthy nations need to reduce their consumption of meat, in a sort of global give-and-take with the goal of extending the nutrition benefits of animal protein to those whose diets are insufficient.

The UN report is a wake-up call to take a good, hard look at how our taste for meat, and lots of it, has created a product that is not exactly appetizing and is endangering the world’s food supply. The report’s call to many in richer countries to “do the demetarian thing” is a call to consider what we consume and to ask, do we really need to eat all that?

Related Care2 Coverage

To Save the Earth, We Must Change What We Eat

We’ll Eat the Pig, But We Won’t Drink the Blood

Go Vegetarian or the World Will Go Hungry


Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon2 years ago

I like meat. I know what I like and make my own choices. A nice steak tastes so good with a pilsner. Joy of living,is not from fear, but courage to live. I make no excuses for being here.

Marianne Good
Past Member 4 years ago


Annelies Haussler
liessi Haussler4 years ago

If you really love meat and have a hard time reducing or eliminating it from your diet, at least make an effort to take one "reality check" trip to your local abattoir / slaughterhouse. That way, if you do eat animals, at least you are owning up to what it takes to get them on your plate. (People with a stomach for hunting at least look animals in the eye.)

I believe if school-aged kids were taken on tours of slaughterhouses and packing plants instead of zoos, very few would have any trouble eating their vegetables.

If you're reading this article, though, you're probably well under the national average for meat consumption. Every step toward a more humane world is important.

Charli S.
Charlotte S4 years ago

And can we trust this "study"?

Connie O.
Connie O4 years ago

I do eat less than I used to. My grandmother was vegetarian, but died from heart disease...figure out that one!

Bu M.
Bu M4 years ago


Annelies Haussler
liessi Haussler4 years ago

In 2012, we tried to buy only free range meat from local farms but I was deeply disturbed that these animals would be trucked away to the same abattoirs as the factory-farmed atrocities we were trying to avoid.

In 2013, we found an operation that raises small batches of free range, organic animals. These animals are killed in the most humane way imaginable, in a peaceful environment, with soft music playing in the background to soothe them. The cost, which is considerably higher than your average butcher, meant cutting back our meat intake. No problem there.

Now, when I go to a restaurant and therefore cannot control the food source, I opt for the vegetarian or vegan option. Of course, living in Vancouver helps. There are loads of non-meat options in restaurants. Slowly but surely, protein is replacing meat in our diet. I now find myself repulsed by the meat section in supermarkets. It's a process for us but we're getting there.

janet T.
janet t4 years ago

that would be hard to do. Back in the 70s we went to less meat because of the costs.

Cynthia B.
Cynthia B4 years ago

Going vegan is the right thing to do and it is wonderful :)