Meat Eaters Guided to Meatless Monday

July 18th, 2011

The Environmental Working Group has just released The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health; a new, interactive look at why our meals matter. The report and supporting website take an in-depth look at many of the public health issues surrounding meat production, offering tips, resources and action ideas. The Meat Eater’s Guide also takes a hard look at Meatless Monday, offering staggering stats on the potential impact and testimonials from some of the movement’s key players.

The EWG teamed up with the environmental analysis firm Clean Metrics to look at the complete impact of 20 types of meat, dairy and vegetable protein. “Our assessment”, notes EWG Senior Analyst Kari Hamershlag, “calculates the full ‘cradle to grave’ carbon footprint of each food item based on the greenhouse gas emissions generated before and after food leaves the farm.” The Meat Eater’s Guide includes detailed explanations of how feed production, manure, transportation, processing, water use and food waste all contribute to your meal’s overall environmental impact. Lamb and beef were found to be the top environmental offenders, with beef generating 13 times more emissions than vegetable proteins like beans, lentils and tofu.

Americans eat significantly more meat than Europeans or those in developing countries.

The Meat Eater’s Guide also highlights the health implications of red and processed meat. The report notes that Americans eat significantly more meat than other countries; about 60% more than Europeans and nearly four times as much as those in developing countries. It showcases recent studies linking excessive meat consumption to obesity, increased mortality, strokes, type-2 diabetes and cancer of the prostate, colon, pancreas, esophagus, bladder, breast and lung. The report also looks at the public health implications of meat production, including hormone and antibiotic use and the presence of dioxins in animal fats.

The Meat Eater’s Guide clearly outlines so many of the health and environmental issues that Meatless Monday has cited as reasons to cut back. It’s no wonder then that the campaign is a prominently featured action and resource on the EWG’s new website. The site includes testimonials by Monday Campaigns founder Sid Lerner and Meatless Monday supporters Mario Batali and Michael Pollan. Visitors are encouraged to take the Meatless Monday pledge, visit our site for healthful, meatless recipes, and follow our Twitter for up-to-date information about public health and the Meatless Monday movement.

The report also demonstrates the power of your Meatless Monday meal by the numbers. One less burger a week for one year has the same climate impact as taking your car off the road for 320 miles, or line-drying your clothes 50% of the time. If your family of four skipped steak one day a week the savings are the same as not driving for nearly three months. Finally if everyone in American were to go meatless -and cheese less- on Monday, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Overall, The Meat Eater’s Guide includes many useful tools for consumers who want to understand the impact of their plate. As Roni Neff, Research and Policy Director for the Center for a Livable Future, notes, “we’re not all going to become vegans- and it is not necessary that we do. We can go a long way to reducing our carbon footprints by eating less meat… making informed decisions when we do eat meat, and cutting back on ‘avoidable waste’”. Read up on the facts using the EWG’s easy to understand report summary and FAQ page. Then test your smarts with their interactive quiz and take action with their excellent selection of informative books, websites, twitter feeds and multimedia tools.