Paring down and replacing that hamburger with meatless meats has multiple benefits. It reduces demand which reduces the associated land clearing, fertilizer use, emissions from burping cattle, and greenhouse gas emissions from animal operations.
Shifting to a diet richer in plants is a solution that runs counter to an American diet that includes an average of three hamburgers a week. This meat-centric habit of eating is on the rise globally. In our March 1st 1PN, we discussed the huge impact of agriculture emissions from meat and dairy farms. In fact, if cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. Consumption of meat and dairy often exceed what we actually need to be healthy.
It’s not an insignificant impact either. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet. Because eating is profoundly personal and cultural, tasty plant-based options must be available, visible, and enticing, including high-quality meat substitutes. Project Drawdown also draws attention to the price we all pay for government subsidies. These cash payments and price supports benefit industry, but when the environment pays the price, the cost of animal protein could more accurately reflect all of the costs.