Americans are eating less meat, and this is making a dent in the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, a new report has found.
U.S. beef consumption fell by nearly one-fifth — or 19% — on a per capita basis from 2005 to 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said in a report released on Wednesday.
The environmental group found that consumption of chicken and pork fell as well, though less sharply.
The NRDC is hailing the plummeting popularity of beef as a victory in the fight against climate change, because significant greenhouse gases are produced when cattle are raised.
The research, which is based on data from the Agriculture Department found that changes in the American diet reduced greenhouse emissions by the equivalent of removing 57 million cars (39 million just from beef reduction) from the roads — despite the population growing around 9 percent.
“Whether we realize it or not, Americans have been fighting greenhouse gas emissions with their forks,” said Sujatha Bergen, a policy specialist in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Food and Agriculture program.
Although the NRDC did not ask Americans why they were eating differently, Ms. Bergen said that greater attention to how food affected health and well-being — rather than awareness of the environmental impact — was probably driving the decline in beef consumption.
According to research published in January by Mintel, more than 25% said they changed their diet out of concern about cholesterol and saturated fats.
The NRDC report showed just how damaging beef production is on the planet, and how much of an impact it has on greenhouse gas emissions:
Thanks in part to social media people are increasingly becoming aware of the environmental impact of meat production. Ethical concerns and increased convenience from the wider availability of meat/dairy alternatives are also driving more people than ever before to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets.
One of the world's largest meat producers recently predicted we are headed towards a meatless future, and a well funded vegan startup recently announced a new facility to create 4 million burgers per month that taste indistinguishable from regular beef-burgers.
This month a large New York dairy company ditched cow milk completely in order to concentrate on plant-based milk instead, and news that a large vegetarian company decided to veganise all it's products was very well received. On the other side of the Atlantic, a London cafe decided to completely ditch dairy after learning more about the industry.
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