Why Eat Less Meat

Cutting meat out of your diet for one day each week not only lowers your contribution to climate change, but is also good for the planet generally, good for others, especially the poor, good for animals, and good for your health.

Good for the Planet Icon_Help_planet

Eating less meat is one of the most effective things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment.

Greenhouse emissions
  • The raising of livestock for meat consumption contributes significantly to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions - making up over 10% of our country's emissions according to the Federal Government's Department of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency. Cattle and sheep in particular are a significant source of methane – a greenhouse gas 25 - 34 times more potent than CO2 in a 100-year time frame. On the other hand, the ACT Government Health Directorate reports that emissions from the vegetable industry account for just 0.7% of Australia's total emissions.
  • People have campaigned to have separate accounting for methane and other fast-acting greenhouses gases as part of the UN climate negotiations, because methane does most of its damage to the climate in the first 10 years and this is one key to more rapidly reducing humanity's overall emissions. The general metric used is the damage gases do in 100 years, but methane only last in the atmosphere for 10-12 years. Even over a 20-year time frame, the damage done by methane is 86 times the damage done by the same quantity of CO2. 
  • According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, meat production is expected to nearly double by 2050 under a business as usual scenario. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by at least 40% globally to avoid dangerous climate change. The increase in meat consumption could therefore negate reductions from other positive changes (e.g. increasing automobile fuel efficiencies, switching to renewable energy, etc.)   
  • Data from the Australian Conservation Foundation showed that by reducing red meat intake by a 150 gram serving a week, an individual would save 300kg of greenhouse gas pollution in a year. If all Australians were to do this, we would save over six million tonnes of greenhouse gases in a year. This would be the equivalent of taking an eighth of Australia’s cars off the road!*
Land use
  • The CSIRO estimates that animal farming uses 50% of the Australian continent and is responsible for over 90% of land degradation.
Water use
  • According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfares' "Australia's food & nutrition 2012" Report, the production of 1kg of wheat requires about 1,000 litres of water, whereas for meat-based foods about 5 to 10 times more water is required for the same amount.

Good for the PoorIcon_people

Meat production has significant impacts on the lives of many people, particularly the world's poor living in developing countries who struggle to get enough food to eat.  The amount of grains that go into feeding the animals that we eat are many times greater than the amount of grain that we need to consume directly to meet our nutritional needs. This excess food is then not available for other people to use to meet their needs directly.

Hunger and poverty
  • Over 1 billion people in the world do not get enough food to eat each day, yet more than enough food is produced worldwide to feed the whole plant adequately.
  • The basic foodstuffs for people in developing countries are simple grains like rice, corn and wheat. However the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that over half of the world's grains are being fed to animals destined for our tables instead of going on to the international market for people in poorer countries to purchase for themselves to eat.
  • Because people in rich countries will pay a lot for their meat, livestock farmers in rich countries can afford to pay a lot more for grains than people in developing countries, who therefore often miss out on the chance to have three basic meals a day.
  • As our meat intake increases, the demand for these grains does too, pushing prices up and contributing to the food insecurity experienced by up to one third of people on this planet.
  • If almost half of the worlds cereals like rice and corn currently go to feed animals, imagine the different it could make to people in developing countries if this food was available for them to purchase directly!

Good for Animals Icon_sheep

  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 500 million land-based animals are slaughtered in Australia every year. But even before that, the conditions that many animals are subject to before they make it to our tables are appalling. Sometimes cows, pigs and hens are kept in cages so small they can't move around. The Humane Society and  RSPCA in Australia has documented much of this widespread cruelty towards domesticated animals intended for consumption.
  • Reducing the amount of meat we eat not only helps reduce the number of animals that are killed, but also the number who are forced to live in such conditions.

Good for Your Health Icon_health

  • A reduction in meat consumption can reduce the likelihood of developing heart diseases, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, colorectal, prostate and bowel cancer and obesity.
  • In fact many Australians eat much more meat than is necessary, and particularly in the case of read and processed meats, more than is healthy. It is recommended that adults eat only one to one and a half servings of lean-meat, fish, poultry (or their plant-based alternatives!) each day. With a single serving of cooked meat or chicken being actually only about 65-100 grams -- much smaller than the general servings of meat that many Australians consume at both lunch and dinner most days.
  • And reducing the amount of meat you consume, when well-planned, doesn’t have to affect your nutritional intake. In fact, Nutrition Australia says that a properly planned, fully vegetarian diet has consistently been found to provide the full range of nutrients necessary for an optimal diet and the American Dietetic Association has even concluded that well planned, balanced vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritious for infants, children and adolescents as well as pregnant and lactating women. And given that many Australians don’t eat the quantity and variety of fruit and veggies that they should, replacing some (or all!) of your meat intake with a variety of healthy, fresh produce can actually increase the minerals and vitamins you receive, making you look and feel better.
  • Choosing to substantially or totally remove meat from your diet can be done healthily, but it is important to research and carefully select the types of foods you eat to ensure you get the right minerals and vitamins, and to consider supplements where necessary.


* Calculated using data from the ACF eco-footprint calculator, ABS 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, and ABS 9208.0 – Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia