Can changing the way you EAT MEAT save the planet as well as your health?
“Tackling Climate Change with Sustainable food systems”, is the Chatham House report on climate change, that has been created by The Royal Institute of Internal Affairs to persuade politicians to “Put Meat on the Climate Negotiating Table”.
There has been so much in the press over the years about climate change. Most of it has been warnings about carbon emissions from vehicles, homes and industry. Rarely does any of the coverage mention the importance of food and your diet.
I was invited by the Soil Association to attend the Square Meal debate at Westminster Hall, where farming and food production were discussed in some detail. I am taking some of the main points of the report and looking at it from a nutritional point of view.
Hopefully my approach will give you a clearer understanding of how by buying into the main message which is to EAT LESS MEAT, you can help to reduce carbon emissions, and actually improve your health and the health of your family. Grass fed cattle are better for you and produce much less carbon emissions due to grazing rather than consuming intensely farmed non-organic GM crops that take enormous amount of resource and water to produce.
We (the British people) have a target to reduce carbon emissions that was set in the Paris agreement in 2015 and agreed by all European Member Countries to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. That is only 14 years. It is a lot to achieve. But it is vital that we all stick to it as the aim is to stop the earth’s temperature rising by 2 degrees, which is the point of no return. There is another target that by 2050 the EU will have reduced carbon emission by 80-95%.
This could well be the main reason we stay in Europe. Forget all the other issues this dwarfs them all.
Why is the way we eat so important?
There are two very compelling interconnected reasons to change your diet:
- Your health and wellbeing – Your future
- Your planet’s health and wellbeing – Your future, your children’s and their children’s future.
The debate “Square Meal” was chaired by Professor Tim Benton who is the “Champion” for the UK’s Global Food Security Programme. It was based around the vision of a group of contributors, using their expert knowledge, have come together to make recommendations on what they believe will make the biggest difference, facilitating the carbon reduction that the planet so desperately needs.
Contributors: Centre for Food Policy, Compassion in World Farming, Eating-Better.org, Food Ethics Council, Friends of the Earth, RSPB, Soil Association, Sustain, The Wildlife Trusts.
The speakers were: Laura Wellesley from Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) Guy Watson (Organic Farmer) from Riverford Organics and Martin Nesbit from IEEP (Institute of European Environmental Policy)
Laura Wellesley from Chatham House laid out the report dealing with the specific area of agriculture and meat consumption. It does not make comfortable reading. I am not a big meat-eater, my diet consists mostly of plant-based foods, but even I will make personal changes to support this campaign.
In a nutshell this quote sums up the enormity of the situation we find ourselves in:
“The production and consumption of meat is a major driver of climate change. Already, the livestock sector contributes 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to exhaust fumes from all the world’s vehicles. By 2050, global meat consumption is expected to rise by 75 per cent: even with ambitious mitigation to lower the emissions intensity of livestock production the world over, the increase in consumption will eat up a huge slice of the remaining carbon budget.
The upshot is that, without a significant reduction in global meat-eating, keeping global warming below two degrees will be nearly impossible. Tackling unsustainable meat consumption is therefore a necessity. It should also be seen as key opportunity for win-win policy-making.”
The report’s 5 main recommendations for each country are:
- Widen the scope of the current consultation on food and farming.
- Adopt a clear and robust set of principles for what constitutes healthy and sustainable diets.
- Fundamentally reform the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy)
- Effectively implement and enforce existing legislation on food, farming standards, water and environmental protection.
- Introduce better measurements of our resource use to recognise the importance of sustainable consumption and production.
Each of us can support this campaign by:
- Eating less Meat – buy smaller but better quality.
- Choosing sustainable and ethically produced animal products (Organic, Free ranged or grass-fed, non-GMO fed)
- Supporting local farmers / producers.
The MPs in the room became decidedly uncomfortable as they realised that this would not be an easy message to take to the British public because they say: 1. It is unfair to expect people, that can’t afford it, to change to a healthier diet, and 2. Farmers will lose out and not want to change. The truth is:
- The majority of people can afford to eat meat and I think it is empowering for people to know that they can easily do something to really help immediately by eating less.
- Governments MUST support the organic farming system more and less support for those that use toxic chemicals.
- Organic does not need the vast amounts of expensive phosphorus fertilisers – which are running out! (another time bomb) and ultimately it would be cheaper to farm organically if the playing field of government subsidies was level.
Why is eating less meat good for your health?
The meat story is a bit like the salt story. We need protein to survive, as we do salt, we would die without it. But now most people in the western world over consume it and just like excessive salt, it is bad for your health. But unlike salt, over consuming meat is bad for the planet!
We need “adequate” amounts of protein to be healthy, and that protein needs to contain all the essential amino acids. for every tissue and cell in our body. It is so vital for our immune function, our energy and our well-being in so many ways. It is why being a nutritionally educated Vegetarian or Vegan is so important.
What is “enough” protein?
If you work your weight out in kilos, as a general rule 0.8g per kilo is around what you need
to consume a day. Example: 75 kilo person needs between 45g-60g of depending on how physically active they are and what their muscle ratio is. A 3oz serving of meat or seafood is 20-28g this is smaller than you may think – equivalent to a small deck of cards.
Pulses (cooked) contain around 8g protein per cup. Eggs 6-8g depending on size and nuts and seeds around 4g-8g depending on type. Vegetables and whole grains also contain protein, so over the day you can see that eating moderate portions will supply plenty of protein for the average person. Pregnant women and athletes need more protein than the average person.
Animal versus Plant protein – what are the pro and cons?
- Contains all essential amino acids (building blocks of all our tissues and cells)
- Easier for the body to use (more bioavailable)
- Contains Co Enzyme 10 – Vital for our energy pathways in muscle tissue, protects the heart.
- Red meat high in iron and other minerals.
- The main source of B12 – absolutely vital for health.
- More bioavailable than plant protein so easier for the body to use.
- When over eaten it is acid forming so creates acidic blood – robbing your bones of minerals to alkalise the blood and weakening them.
- Overeating meat in one meal causes undigested protein into the intestines, as this sits there it releases toxins that are detrimental to all aspects of health. (there is only so much stomach acid, and this is not enough to digest large amounts of animal protein in one go)
- If the ecology of good bacteria is out of balance (this is true in many people due to Western diet and antibiotics) the meat is poorly digested in the gut, causing sluggish digestion and a toxic environment – especially as we age.
- Contains protein in different levels. Some are higher certain amino acids, so these can be used to affect imbalances.
- Contains “phytonutrients” – such as polyphenols, Indole 3 carbinole, Flavonoids, Carotenoids, Lignans, Isoflavonoids, Curcuminoids, Tanins, Chlorophylls, beta-glucans. These are some of the most health-promoting things you can eat.
- Contains two types of fibre – cellulose being the one that feeds our “Good” bacteria and helps produces vital nutrients. Soluble fibre that binds to toxins and helps remove them from the body.
- Contain many minerals and vitamins vital to optimal health and protection against disease and chronic health issues.
- Contains enzymes to help break food down.
- Less easily digested and utilised by the body
- In general, does not contain all the essential amino acids in one food and needs to be carefully combined.
- If not organically grown may lack nutrients and cause deficiencies.
- High in phytic acid which binds to minerals and can block calcium in large amounts (phytase digestive enzyme neutralises the affect) phytic acid is cancer protective though.
What is “excess” protein?
Many servings of meat can be 7-12oz that would be 60g-120g of protein in one meal! Other protein eaten during the day can be: Eggs on their own and in other foods. Cheese, milk and yoghurt, ice cream and other deserts. Cold meats, pastes and fillings, grains, vegetables and pulses. That could quite easily add up to 100-200g of protein, depending on portion.
58% of people eat out at least once a week, and spend more money eating out than they do on groceries. Eating out normally means a starter that can be a meat portion, then a main meat portion, and then a dairy protein portion as a dessert.
On average the Western diet has from 3 to 5 times more protein than is needed for health, and the developing countries are catching up. Countries that were predominantly vegetarian are eating more and more poor quality meat and dairy.
What are the physical effects in the body of over consumption of animal protein?
Excess protein converts to sugar then fat.
The process of breaking the protein down creates nitrogen waste which must be removed from the body and excess protein consumption stresses the kidneys. This causes systemic dehydration and can eventually can cause kidney damage and even gout, an arthritic condition caused by excess uric acid in the blood.
Over eating meat and dairy can trigger immune conditions like eczema and asthma, arthritis and other chronic conditions – especially animal products that have been reared on GM grain and soya in cramped conditions and treated with hormones and antibiotics. If you know you eat more than “adequate” and you suffer from any of these conditions, try eating less meat and dairy – you may be surprised at the difference.
The excess phosphorus in the protein triggers the body to have to rebalance minerals therefore leaching calcium from bones, which weakens them.
Consuming excessive protein stimulates a pathway called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) Decreased mTOR activity in the body promotes health and can increase life span as well as protect against cancer and disease. Consuming more protein than the body needs stimulates mTOR and increases the risk of disease and cancer as well as speeding up the aging process.
Short fasting diets that are devoid of all protein can inhibit mTOR and regularly done can increase health and wellbeing. Choosing to eat much less meat will also promote this.
Eating less but higher quality meat, should not mean spending more. Or if it does you are supporting a system that is good for animals, the planet and your future health.
Eating more healthily (less meat) would actually mean spending less on food. Even if people do not want to buy organic – you can still eat more healthily by choosing less meat and more vegetables. More Non GM pulses and whole grains – therefore more nutrients, more fibre.
Higher quality meat will is less toxic and more nutritious due to eating grass or more natural foods.
Mass produced animals might not see the light of day and they will be fed grains like Maize and Soya which is not their natural diet. These feeds are intensely farmed and the use of pesticides and fertilizer is having such a profoundly toxic effect on the environment via the soil and the plant. Insects, bees, butterflies and birds are simply dying off due to poisoning by farmers and gardeners! it is not sustainable – the ecosystem is in dire need of rebalancing. There is only one answer whether we like it or not and that is to change the way the land is farmed and to change the way we eat.
So by reducing your meat intake, eating higher quality, grass-fed, organic animal product in smaller affordable amounts – you will be doing something to support your health, animal welfare and support the health of the environment.
And very importantly will send a message that you are no longer willing to support products that damage your health and the environment.
Organic farming means not buying mountains of chemical fertiliser or toxic seeds from Monsanto. Organic farming fixes nitrate in the soil and allows more CO2 to be absorbed. Organic farming doesn’t use the pesticides that destroy the bees, insects and the bird’s food and habitat.
Why is Organic better for you and your family?
- More beneficial nutrients – more Vitamins and minerals
- More plant antioxidants that protect against disease.
- Much less nitrogen content, and 87% lower nitrite content which is linked to some cancers – caused by using non-organic fertilisers
- Supports natural farming and the surrounding environment.
- Less pesticides and harmful heavy metals for consumption
- More protective of wildlife and the environment.
- Better animal welfare.
- Protects the soil.
Find out more: www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic
Why are there not more organic farms?
Organic farming accounts for just 2% of the market, which means that mass production of grains and animals is 98% – it’s VAST and it has to change.
Farmers are opting out of organic due to:
- Complicated and expensive organic certification –needs to be simplified and less expensive.
Organic Animal feed is much more expensive than poorer quality feed – so needs to be passed onto consumer.
- Very few “champions” in government and industry to lead the way.
Government and consumers can support organic farming by:
- Government grants for the organic certification process and maintenance.
- More subsidies for organic farming.
- Consumers making better choices at the point of purchase
Organic, and/or grass-fed.
- Public demand for organic or grass-fed animals when dining out.
- The more demand for organic – the cheaper it will become.
Change will happen for the better or the worse, nothing stands still.
The top two actions to take are:
“Eat Less Meat and Choose Better Quality”
The brilliant thing about it is you can start immediately to make a difference.
Become a member of the Soil association: http://www.soilassociation.org/becomeamember
Starting at £3.50 per month or a Soil Friend member for £10 a month.
Find out more:
[contact-form subject='[Foodspa%26#039;s Blog’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]
Word count: 2,535