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Eat less meat

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Replace at least one meat meal per week with a vegetarian option. Land used for beans and vegetables produces 10 times as much protein as land used for raising beef.

Meat is the sleeping giant of a sustainable lifestyle. 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 65-100 grams of cooked meat. Hence, the Australian National Dietary Guidelines are recommending that if a person adopted the highest edge of their meat consumption recommendations (i.e. 100g of meat 1.5 times a day) they 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 (ABS 1997-98) despite the highest recommended amounts being less that half of this (i.e. the 54.75kg noted above).

If we adopted the recommendations of the Australian National Dietary Guidelines and halved our meat consumption we would save both money and the environment while also improving our health.

An average Australian household spends approximately $44.60 per week on meat, fish, and poultry (ABS 6403, 2010) or $2,318 per annum (prices vary by location and time). So by halving our household meat consumption we should save over  $1000 per annum (Data source: ABS - 6540.0 - Microdata: Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, Basic and Expanded CURF, Australia, 2009-10).

The environmental impact of halving your meat consumption is harder to calculate, however in 2005 the University of NSW and CSIRO conducted a triple bottom line analysis of 135 sectors of the Australian economy titled "Balancing Act" 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 more a large portion of our ecological footprint. So eat well and help us move to a more sustainable and healthy diet.

How to do it now!

Making the shift from carnivore to herbivore can be a challenge. However, for those keen enough to try, there are local groups and sites eager to assist your change with recipes, advice and support. You might even find you enjoy a more diverse and healthy diet!

Some great vegetarian recipe sites include:

Why is this action important?

Vegetable proteins, an alternative to meat, can be produced for a tenth of the land and water cost of meat. In Australia, the sharp hooves of cattle and sheep contribute to the loss or degradation of our soil, water and native habitats. Health experts also warn that Australians generally eat too much meat, so reducing our intake would be sensible for our environment, our health – and our hip pocket!