A new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reassess the bad rap on meat and dairy products, adding new criticism that not only is meat bad for your health, but also bad for the environment. Their conclusion: Eat less meat and cheese.
The advocacy group adds a new angle to meat and dairy eating by considering the environmental impact of production. EWG Senior Analyst, Kari Hamershlag, examines the process as requiring “large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water,” along with generating “green house gases and large amounts of toxic manure and wastewater” that ultimately ends up in the ocean.
Besides production, she also notes packaging, processing, transportation, cooking, and even waste (20 percent of edible meat is thrown out into a landfill) adds a negative impact to the environment. But more specifically, the report targets lamb, beef and cheese as releasing the most greenhouse gas emissions among a number of commonly-consumed proteins and vegetables.
Figure 1. Full Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables
But vegetarians, beware! Cheese also plays a significant role in generating greenhouse gasses. According to the chart, cheese is the third-highest culprit at a shocking 13.5 kilos (29.7 lbs) of cardon dioxide equivalents for each kilo eaten. However, less dense cheese, like cottage cheese, results in fewer greenhouse gasses since it requires less milk to produce.
But even if meat and cheese consumers don’t find themselves affected by the environmental report, Hamershlag touches on the health risks as well. According to her, “large quantities of beef and processed meats increases your exposure to toxins and is linked to higher rates of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and obesity.”
To get a better understanding of the health side of meat and cheese eating, Catherine Pearson, a writer for AOL’s Healthy Living column, highlights the report’s findings on eating too much meat and cheese. The real question being: how much is too much meat, and how do we cut back?
Ultimately, the EWG doesn’t necessarily say to stop eating meat and dairy entirely. But the advocacy group does encourage eating less meat and promoting ideas like “meatless Mondays” into a weekly dinner schedule. Oats, lentils, chickpeas, beans, cabbage, onion, garlic and kale, are good substitutes to help wing you away from a heavy meat diet. But if you must eat meat, simply eating local or grass-fed meats, they say, can lessen the environmental effect of greenhouse gasses also.
To read the full report, click here.