All over the world, people are eating less meat. In city after city, there is an explosion of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and even long-established restaurants are adding meatless options to their menus. Today we are taking a closer look at the reasons why this trend away from animal products shows no signs of slowing down.
Reducing Meat Consumption is Better for the Environment
In the wake of the environmental crisis, many people, particularly young people, are trying to make the most environmentally responsible choices that they can. The production of meat, particularly the meat of ruminants like cows, has a huge environmental cost. Some of the environmental costs of meat include:
- Uses food that people could eat. Of the nearly 350 million metric tonnes of soybeans produced every year, only 6% is used directly in human food, and nearly 85% of the global soybean crop is used to feed industrially farmed animals. Among all food crops grown in the world, 40% is used to raise meat animals. This means that millions of hectares of land and millions of tonnes of food that could be used for the direct benefit and welfare of people is instead used in meat production.
- Consumes large quantities of water. Fresh water is a precious and dwindling resource. It takes over 15,000 liters of water to produce a single kg of beef protein. On the other hand, 1kg of oyster mushroom protein can be produced with just 112 liters of water, or even less.
- Endangers natural habitats. Industrial-sized herds of cows and sheep are a major cause of deforestation in Central and South America. This releases carbon into the atmosphere, and threatens native plant and animal species. In fact, over 25% of the ice-free surface of the earth is devoted to animal grazing, which threatens soil stability, hydrologic function, and biodiversity.
- Emits greenhouse gases. It is estimated that livestock and poultry are responsible for 14-18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Raising ruminant meat produces 62 grams of CO2 per gram of protein, while growing legumes produces just .25 grams of CO2 per gram of protein.
Reducing Meat Consumption is Healthier for the Body
There are a number of medical studies directly linking meat consumption with overall mortality, but such studies are often too broad for meaningful analysis. A more moderate study completed in Europe in 2013 showed a positive association between processed meat consumption over 20g/day and overall mortality, particularly from cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Eating a plant-based diet benefits the body by:
- Reducing saturated fat. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, like shortening, coconut oil, lard, and animal fats. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, like olive oil, nut oils, and fish oils. Saturated fats have long been known to cause cardiovascular disease, while the unsaturated fats in seed oils, nut oils, and fish oils actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Reducing overall calories. Just as an example, 100 grams of beef steak has 232 calories, 17.6 grams of fat, 7.1 grams of saturated fat, and 18 grams of protein. 100 grams of oyster mushrooms has just 33 calories, .4 grams of fat, no saturated fat, and 3.3 grams of protein. Since most plant-based foods are naturally lower in fat than animal-based foods, they are naturally lower in calories as well.
Reducing Meat Consumption is More Ethical
Some people avoid meat simply from a love of animals, and others are concerned about the way that livestock animals are raised and treated. Current animal product labeling laws can be ambiguous about the differences between cruelty-free, cage-free, free-range, grass-fed, etc, which makes it difficult for consumers to make choices that feel morally right.
Reducing Meat Consumption is More Affordable
Finally, many people are skipping meat more often simply because it’s more expensive. As the range of delicious plant-based and meat-free foods keeps expanding, it’s easy to skip meat a few days a week and save some money without feeling deprived of a delicious, satisfying meal.
While everyone makes their food choices for a variety of reasons, this combination of factors is leading more and more people to choose to eat less meat, and rely on plant-based proteins instead. At BeefyGreen, we are proud to be part of this future food movement, and be a trusted mushroom supplier in the Netherlands.