Animal agriculture releases the equivalent of 7.1 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, accounting for 14.5% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. While the emissions rates of different animals vary with farming techniques, the fact remains that minimally processed vegetable crops have the lowest environmental impact.
As people become aware of the unsustainability of traditional animal farming, there is a growing interest in methods that reduce the environmental impact of the meat industry. Here are 5 tips to help you make your meat consumption more sustainable.
You Are More Likely to Achieve Precise Goals
It's much easier to reach a goal that you have articulated precisely. For example, try eliminating meat from meals, days of the week, or specific recipes for a week. Then, reflect on the results and brainstorm any further changes to reduce consumption or improve your diet satisfaction.
Some examples of these goals might be to pick a week or month and –
Focus on What to Add, not What to Take Away
To avoid spending an inordinate amount of time lamenting how much you miss meat, focus on increasing the number of veggies you eat instead. Browse the internet looking for nutrient-dense, satisfying vegetable dishes that leave you feeling full. Veggies with high amounts of protein are great for main courses.
Lentils are super filling and can work in veggie-based “meatloaf” recipes. In addition, a healthy serving of quinoa will net you all nine essential proteins. Soy products like tofu and tempeh will also fill you up and give you the protein variety you need.
Slowly Move Meat to the Side
There are many ways to limit your meat consumption without feeling hungry after a meal. One way is to reduce portion size while increasing the amount of plant protein in the same dish. This strategy is an excellent approach for stir-frys and salads. For example, add extra chickpeas to make a light chicken Caesar salad more filling. In addition, try making meat your side dish next to a protein-rich, plant-based entrée.
Make up for the Lower Amount with Higher Quality
Higher quality meat is more nutritious and better for the environment. If you can reduce the quantity of meat in your diet, try using some of the savings to beef up the quality with 100% grass-fed or pasture-raised animals. Labels can be tough to navigate since there is no uniform definition or scale of meat sustainability. However, look for labels like USDA Organic or Certified Humane to show that the animal in question was not CAFO-raised.
Knowing the Source Is Always the Best Way to Eat Sustainably
The best way to gauge whether your meat is sustainable is to know the source - personally. You can visit farmer's markets, look on social media or do a Google search to find local farmers who can supply you directly. Many have programs like meat shares – think subscription services for fresh meat you can pick up at the farm monthly. In addition, some people buy whole chickens or even entire cows from farmers who practice regenerative agriculture. It's the most cost-effective way to buy meat; just make sure you have a big freezer!
- Stay Clean – Regardless of whether you eat meat, processed foods of any kind are unhealthy for you and the environment. Instead, eat whole, unrefined foods – preferably bought from the perimeter of your grocery store, not the aisles.
- Stay Strong – Plant-based foods are not necessarily low-calorie, and meat is definitely not. Make sure you live an active lifestyle and use all the protein you take in, whether it’s from meat or plants. Maintaining a healthy muscle mass is the key to longevity.
- Stay Full – There's no denying that meat is satiating. To keep from overeating, try having several snacks per day of protein-rich plants. Nuts, hemp seeds, and kale chips are great to munch on at work.