A diet for the planet

Experts have been saying for some time that in order to truly tackle global climate change we must limit our consumption of red meat as its cultivation is a major source of emissions and pollution. This week scientists made the prescription to reduce meat official and suggested a new diet to help Americans alter their eating habits. As The Cut explained, following on the heels of its November cover editorial recommending that the world should be eating a lot less meat (for both human and environmental health), this week the influential medical journal The Lancet released its long and yet still vague plan for exactly how to do this. The authors have given their plan a cosmic and memorable name: The Planetary Health Diet. One of the diet’s most salient details is that it calls for people in North America to eat 85 percent less beef, specifically (and significantly less “or no” meat or animal products in general), while making up for it with vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. (This translates to about one serving of meat a week.) The entire 30,000-word report — “Food in the Anthropocene” — is available for free online.

The Planetary Health Diet could prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths without harming the planet, according to the authors. They also warned that a global change in diet and food production is needed as 3 billion people across the world are malnourished — which includes those who are under and overnourished — and food production is overstepping environmental targets, driving climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Why This Matters: Americans eat more meat than any other nation in the world and its all because CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) make meat cheap and readily accessible. The fact that we are able to eat a hamburger that costs just a couple dollars means that the true externalities of cultivating beef are not reflected in the price we pay for it. As author and researcher Raj Patel noted in his book, we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Eating less meat (or adopting a “flexitarian” diet) to help our planet is a relatively small ask!

Go Deeper: If you’re looking to make more vegetarian meals might we recommend the books The Part Time Vegetarian and More With Less to get you started?

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