If we Americans skipped meat and cheese just one day a week for a year, we’d cut carbon emissions as much as taking 7.6 million cars off the road would! Cutting back on meat not only helps the environment, it also lowers your risk of serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancers.
For many, meat is a regular part of the American diet. Eating meat in moderation can be a good source of complete protein and key vitamins and nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamins B-12, B-6 and niacin. That said, we eat far more protein than we need: kids get 3 to 4 times the recommended amount, and adult men get twice the amount they need. And, of course, the nutritional benefits of meats can be reaped from other, less environmentally damaging, food sources (like lentils and beans).
The scientific evidence is increasingly clear that eating too much meat – particularly red and processed meat – contributes to a wide variety of serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. According to the federal Food and Drug Administration, moreover, most human exposure to dioxins comes from food, almost entirely through animal fats. Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. The best way to reduce the health risks associated with dioxins and other toxins is by limiting your dietary exposure to them.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is asking people to take a pledge to eat less and “greener” meat and has put together their top tips for leaner, greener meat shopping and a Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health. If you buy less meat overall (the top tip for meat eaters), you can more easily afford healthier, greener meat. When shopping, always read the labels (and check the label decoder)! Look for:
- Grass-fed or pasture-raised meat: it has fewer antibiotics and hormones and in some cases may have more nutrients and less fat.
- Lean cuts: less fat will likely mean fewer cancer-causing toxic chemicals in your body.
- No antibiotics or hormones: reduces unnecessary exposure and helps keep human medicines effective.
- Certified organic: keeps pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified foods off the land, out of the water and out of our bodies.
- Certified humane: means no growth hormones or antibiotics and ensures that animals were raised with enough space and no cages or crates.
- Unprocessed, nitrite-free and low sodium: avoid lunch meats, hot dogs, prepackaged smoked meats and chicken nuggets.
- Sustainable seafood: avoid air freighted fish, most farmed salmon, and consult Monterey Bay Aquarium’s list of the most sustainable seafood choices.
- Local: supports your local economy and protects farm land
Take the Pledge by signing up here and do your part to eat less and eat greener!
From the meat eater’s guide on the Enviornmental Working Group’s Website: