MEAT has been a hot topic lately – often when scientists, doctors or campaigners have called for us to eat less of it, either for health or environmental reasons. Will cutting down on meat really help to save the planet? Or make us healthier? Is it really that simple? Well, the simple answer is that, erm, no, it’s not that simple and it depends what the meat is, how it was raised and who’s eating it.
The vast majority of scientists and health organisations agree that in Western countries like the UK and US we eat too much protein – maybe up to 100% too much. Now, although eating too much isn’t necessarily a problem, it depends where you’re getting that protein from. If you’re eating a ton of fatty meat, that also means you’ll be getting a lot of saturated fat in your diet, but it could also mean that you’re not getting a wide enough variety of plant protein in your diet and missing out on some vitamins and minerals.
So who’s saying that we need to cut down? An awful lot of people: the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the US government, the World Resources Institute, the Food Climate Research Network, Greenpeace, WWF, the Sustainable Food Trust, plus the huge number of scientific articles backing them all up.
The important thing to say is that not a single one of those has said that we all have to give up meat and go vegan or vegetarian (which we’re going to cover in an upcoming issue). What they all say is that meat can be part of a healthy and sustainable diet, but that we need to eat less of it, especially processed meat (such as ham, bacon and sausages) and red meat (beef, lamb, pork). The message that most scientists want to get across is that eating a wide variety of plant-based foods, with some meat, fish and dairy, is going to be good for you.
What we want to know is, do you think you eat less meat now than you did a year ago?