A 'flexitarian' diet which comprises one serving of meat a day has a lower carbon footprint than a vegetarian diet that incorporates dairy, according to critical new research. The research by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, America, could change recent guidance about diet and climate change on its head. It modelled the environmental impact of all significant foods across some 140 countries and concluded that those who switch to a vegetarian diet might be doing more harm than good.
- Research by John Hopkins University shows that a 'flexitarian' diet is better than a completely vegetarian diet for the environment.
- JHU research confirms this and finds that cattle, sheep and goat meat are the most greenhouse gas intensive foods, but diary is not far behind.
- Beef in diets has higher environmental implications.
- Global shift to a strictly vegan diet would reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 70 per cent.
- A vegan diet supplemented with “low-food chain animals” such as insects would have similar benefits, while also providing a better source of protein and vitamins.
The research notes that it would be more useful in striking dairy products, enhancing their fruit and vegetable consumption and eating meat once a day for protein and energy. They call this a “two thirds vegan” nutrition. Dr Keeve Nachman, the paper's author, told The Telegraph that dietary shifts don't have to be as draconian as people think them to be to have a meaningful impact on the environment.
The study discovered that shifting to a vegetarian diet that incorporates eggs and dairy is less effective to reduce greenhouse emissions than a diet that includes meat, dairy and eggs for one of three meals and is solely plant-based for the other two meals.
Research by John Hopkins University shows that a 'flexitarian' diet is better than a completely vegetarian diet for the environment.
Academics have been recommending for some time of the environmental impact of intakes high in meat. The new JHU research verifies this and affirms that cows, sheep and goat meat are the most significant greenhouse gas-intensive foods, but says that dairy is not far behind.
According to Dr Nachman, shifting to a wholesome vegetarian diet would involve dairy and eggs at a scale slightly over the standard to balance the loss of meat. The two-thirds vegan diet in a country like the UK is a noteworthy decline in some of the most climate intensive foods. With shifting over to dairy and eggs, it is a sizeable decline in footprint.
Sustainable meat production and consumption is the need of the hour
The study shows that meat production and consumption cannot be maintained at contemporary levels. It matches with other research that it must be drawn down globally if the environmental change is to be brought under check.
“Certain arrangements of beef production can significantly lessen our ability for carbon sequestration. In particular, the generation that requires deforestation for fodder production and grazing land has severe consequences for our climate,” said Dr Nachman. “Including beef in our diets at prevailing standards would have serious consequences for the environment.”
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Countries shifting to a western diet
Many low and middle-income nations have been turning towards a more western meat-based diet, with specialists suggesting that this will have pressing environmental consequences. In a situation where all 140 nations chose the eating patterns of high-income countries, per individual greenhouse gas emissions would rise by 135 percent on average, according to the JHU study.
A vegan diet supplemented with “low-food chain animals” such as insects would have similar benefits, while also providing a better source of protein and vitamins.
In contrast, a global transformation to a rigidly vegan diet would decrease diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by a tally of 70 percent. A vegan diet enriched with “low-food chain animals” such as insects would have comparable advantages, while also giving a more beneficial source of protein and vitamins. Insect-based diets have strived to find customer approval, especially in the UK, but Dr Nachman is confident that stances may change.
“There are many parts of the world where consuming insects isn't an unusual concept. Based on our data, there may be exceptional significance in investigating methods to normalize this in other parts of the globe.” Nonetheless, the authors recommend that choosing a flexitarian or two thirds vegan diet is an outstanding spot to start.