Three’s a crowd for planet Earth

Research reveals current rates of meat consumption across the globe means we’ll soon need three planets to feed us.

Research has found that if the world continues consuming meat at its current rate, we would soon need three Earths just to feed us (1). With the population set to increase by 30% to more than 11 billion people by 2050 (2), the situation is only set to worsen. Even if the world could stop food waste entirely, food production would still need to increase by 60% to feed this larger, wealthier, more urban population. That means meat production of over 200 million tonnes at the current rate of consumption.

World Meat Free Day, a global initiative held this Monday 12 June, aims to make a ‘less and better’ approach to meat eating as easy as possible for meat eaters all over the world. It’s not about total abstinence, but a catalyst for change. By simply replacing just one meat meal with a non-meat meal on 12 June, everyone can help make a huge impact not only on the planet, but also on their own health.

Nutrition scientist Dr Joanna McMillan said: “It’s much easier to do than you think – just fill up on greens, beans and vegetables. In many parts of the world, people who are the longest-lived consume a largely plant-based diet with small amounts of meat. In Sardinia, Italy, for example, meat is mostly reserved for Sundays and special occasions, while in Okinawa, Japan, seafood is far more common than meat.

“Good-quality red meat does offer valuable nutrition, but many of us eat far bigger portions than we need and not enough plant food. If, when eating meat, you stick to a portion the size of the palm of your hand and fill half your plate with veggies, and opt for a least one vegetarian meal a week, you’re on the right track to longevity.”

It is now widely acknowledged that we cannot meet our meat demand in a sustainable or ethical way (2). To avoid the planet’s food production reaching critical levels, 12 June hopes to help the world make a long-term behaviour change to eat less and better-quality meat, as well as incorporating a greater variety of vegetables, grains, pulses and plant-based foods into its diet.

To put things into perspective, if the entire Australian population tried just one meat-free recipe, we’d save:

  • The carbon equivalent of the yearly power use of 4,467 households.
  • The land saving of 8,532 rugby fields.
  • The water equivalent of 1,564 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The world’s focus is already turning towards a more ‘flexitarian’ approach to eating as we incorporate more plant-based ingredients into our diets than ever before. According to recent Mintel findings, 30% of US adults who buy vegetables are actively trying to eat a more plant-based diet (3), while 29% of people in the UK already claim to have reduced their meat intake in the past year alone (4).

This year’s drive comes off the back of two hugely successful years of the campaign, which saw #WorldMeatFreeDay trend for more than 36 hours on Twitter, reaching over 84 million people last year alone. With high-profile vegans or vegetarians already including the likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ellen DeGeneres, Paul McCartney and Natalie Portman, World Meat Free Day hopes to continue gathering momentum to improve dramatically the health of our already fragile planet.

British actress Joanna Lumley said: “I support World Meat Free Day with all my heart. Just a day without eating meat might encourage people to think again how best we can save the planet and stop cruelty to our fellow creatures at the same time.”

Across the world, people will be invited to pledge their support via the ‘I’m in’ button on the World Meat Free Day website, as well getting involved on social media via the official #WorldMeatFreeDay and @ Meat_Free_Day.

To find out more about World Meat Free Day, go to: www.worldmeatfreeday.com

  1. WWF: http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/static/faq
  2. How To Feed the World 2050: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/wsfs/docs/expert_paper/How_to_Feed_the_World_in_2050.pdf
  3. Mintel Food & Drink Trends 2017 Report.
  4. NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Report:  http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/1116002/vegetarian-society-bsa-2014.pdf
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