A study has shown that daily UK meat consumption has fallen by 17g per person per day in last decade, but experts say a lot more has to be done.

Daily meat consumption in the UK has fallen by 17 per cent across the last ten years, a study has found, but is still not dropping quickly enough to meet a national target.

A study, published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health, revealed that most people are eating less red meat and processed meat than a decade ago. Despite the promising drop, the data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey – which looks at 15,000 people’s eating habits – found people are eating more white meat than they were ten years ago, the BBC reported. The Oxford-based team found that while there was a 17g daily drop in nationwide daily meat consumption per person, it is not happening quickly enough to meet the National Food Strategy’s goal.

The goal, which is based on a review of the UK’s food system including farming and sustainability, recommended that meat consumption should fall by 30 per cent across the next ten years. Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Cristina Stewart from the University of Oxford said: “We now know we need a more substantial reduction.” Dr Stewart said, ‘any reduction’ in meat consumption will reduce the environmental impact of a person’s diet, but was quick to add that people don’t have to be vegetarians. She added: “If you’re someone that eats meat every day, reducing your meat consumption by 30 per cent just looks like having two meat-free days per week.” Dr Stewart, who has helped to design environmental labels scoring food products, also said eating locally-produced meat will have a lower impact on the environment than meat that has been imported.

Meat production produces more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions than other types of food production, but the research did not reveal whether people were changing their diet for environmental factors or other reasons. It comes after a new computer modelling study revealed last month that meat and dairy accounts for 57 per cent of food-based greenhouse gas emissions.

Taking into account farmland, livestock and land use changes, global food production is responsible for 17.318 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, the authors said. In all, 57 per cent of that figure, or 9.8 billion metric tonnes, comes from animal-based production and 29 per cent, or 5.1 billion metric tonnes, comes from plant-based foods. Beef and rice are the largest contributing animal-based and plant-based commodities – contributing 12 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, of all food production-related emissions.

The fact global emissions from animal-based food production are nearly double that from plant-based food production further suggest the environmental benefits of switching to a meat-free diet. Meat-heavy diets not only risk our health but that of the planet, as livestock farming on a massive scale destroys habitats and generates greenhouse gases.

The study was carried out by a team of international experts, led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain. It is the first to account for net carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide emissions from all sub-sectors related to food production and consumption. “Although CO2 is the most important and most frequently discussed GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, methane generated by rice cultivation and animals, and nitrous oxide from fertilisers are 34 and 298 times more powerful than CO2, respectively, when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere,” said lead author Xiaoming Xu.



It comes after a new computer modelling study revealed last month that meat and dairy accounts for 57 per cent of food-based greenhouse gas emissions. The study found that food-based agriculture accounts for 35 per cent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Of that, plant-based foods emissions contribute 29 per cent, consisting of 19 per cent CO2, 6 per cent methane and 4 per cent nitrous oxide emissions. Animal-based food emissions contribute 57 per cent, consisting of 32 per cent CO2, 20 per cent methane and 6 per cent nitrous oxide emissions.

Beef was by far responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions out of all the meat and dairy products – more than 4,000 teragrams (4 billion metric tonnes) – followed by cow milk, pork, chicken meat, sheep meat, buffalo meat, chicken egg, buffalo milk, coat meat and horse meat.

As for plant-based foods, rice accounted for the most emissions – more than 2,000 teragrams – followed by wheat, sugarcane, maize and cassava, a starchy root vegetable native to South America. Also among the top 10 most greenhouse-gas-emitting plants were potato, soybean, bean, rape and mustard and sunflower.

Original source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk