If you are going to eat meat, have committed to choosing the highest welfare options and are abiding by Meat Free Mondays and eating more veggie meals overall, how much meat consumption is enough or too much?
The Australian National Dietary Guidelines (published by the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council) recommends one to one-and-a-half serves of meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives each day.
A serve constitutes 65-100g of cooked meat. Therefore a person consuming at the highest edge of the recommend range (i.e. 100g of meat 1.5 times a day) would consume 54.75kg of meat, fish, and poultry or meat alternatives per annum.
However, the average Australian consumes 123.8kg meat, fish, poultry per annum, despite the highest recommended amounts being less than half of this.
If we adopted the recommendations of the Australian National Dietary Guidelines and halved our meat consumption we would save money and improve our health and the environment. We could practice quality vs quantity and buy top quality, organic or free-range meat or poultry, pay a little more for sustainable fish and still have some change left over.
An average Australian household spends approximately $44.60 per week on meat, fish, and poultry or approximately $2,318 per annum. So by halving our household meat consumption we should save over $1000 per annum.
The environmental impact of halving your meat consumption is harder to calculate, however in 2005 the University of NSW and CSIRO conducted an analysis from which it is possible to calculate the environmental impact derived from a dollar spent in any of the industry sectors analysed.
Using the ‘meat products’ sector the environmental benefits of reducing an Average Australian Household’s meat consumption by half (to the recommended levels) are as follows:
- Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – 2,354 kg CO2
- Reduction in water use – 70,145 litres
- Reduction in land disturbance – 18,606 m2 or 1.86 hectares
These figures suggest that current meat consumption accounts for a large portion of our ecological footprint. Let’s not wait for government or industry to solve our environmental and potential health problems. We can make a difference right now by choosing to eat less meat.
I’m going to leave the last words to the brilliant Jonathan Safran Foer, ‘consumers are going to have get used to eating less meat – to paying more for better quality meat and eating significantly less of it.’