It is believed that if we were to cut the amount of red meat we eat, it would have a significant effect on the number of heart disease and cancer cases, as well as help to reduce a person’s overall carbon footprint. If we were to reduce the amount of red meat and processed meats, it is thought that the number of cases of chronic disease could be reduced by 3-12% in the UK. It is also believed that doing so would reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by 28 million tonnes every year.
The production and distribution of food and drink accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions produced as a result of British consumers, with livestock farming accounting for around half of that – more specifically, the mass amounts of feed imported to sustain the animals. This is an issue that needs to be tackled if the Government’s target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050 is to happen.
Red meat and processed meat are said to play a significant role in the development of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer, with daily consumption of 50g of either type of meat increasing each by 42%, 19%, and 18% respectively.
Data was used from the British National Diet and Nutrition Survey to estimate the amount of red and processed meat consumed throughout the UK to discover the number of greenhouse gases produced as a result. They then developed a theoretical model based on increasing the number of people who consumed little to no red and processed meat. By doing so, they were basing their model on the average consumption of red and processed meats reducing from 91g to 53g for men and from 54g to 30g for women.
The calculations based on this model showed that it would result in a dramatic reduction in the risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and bowel cancer. Doing so would mean that across the whole population, the risk of these diseases would drop between 3-12%. The reduction in risk would also be more than twice the average for those who consumed the highest amount of red and processed meat when moving to a smaller amount. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would also be the equivalent of almost half a tonne per person, or just less than 28 million tonnes of CO2 a year.
Dr. Louse Aston of the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge discussed that it is hard for people their direct impact on climate change; however, it is much easier for people to consider the implications it has on their health. The added benefits to people’s health could persuade people to help themselves while impacting climate change at the same time.