Day 3: Eat less meat
Today's Action: Finding ways to eat less meat while digging into veggie-forward dishes
If you’re a meat-eater, we’re not saying you should give up meat completely; we're just helping you find a way to eat less of it. What feels doable to you? You could start by thinking of yourself as a “reducetarian” (eating fewer animal products) and commit to swapping in some veg meals a few days a week. If you want structure, you could try the VB6 diet, where you eat vegan (no animal products) before 6pm but whatever you want for dinner. (And if you're more the all-or-nothing type, check out Veganuary.)
Also: chicken and fish >> beef, lamb, and shrimp. If you’re really struggling to eat less meat, just start by swapping out the highest-emissions meats (beef, lamb, and shrimp) for poultry or fish, which have much lower carbon footprints.
To get you started with a lower-meat lifestyle, check out our tips below for recipes, resources, and ideas. Also, if you’re already veg and want a different action today, we didn’t forget about you! See below for more food-related actions you can try!
Why this action? One of the top 3 most high-impact personal actions you can take is to cut out meat. Food production accounts for more than 1/3 of global emissions, and meat and other animal-based foods are responsible for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gasses emitted from food production. (Check out the carbon impact of different foods in this graph.)
In the race to cut emissions fast this decade, reducing consumption of animal products will be key. Personal perfection is not the expectation. As author Jonathan Safran Foer points out, avoiding animal products (like meat and cheese) for breakfast and lunch gives you a smaller emissions footprint than the average full-time vegetarian diet. So if you go VB6, you can have your meat and a lower footprint, too. (Bonus: lots of health benefits if you do it right!)
Hungry for more? Read on for recipes and tips, more info, and further actions.
To get you started, our fav chef – Solina’s brother, Gabe Kennedy – put together a recipe book of veggie-forward dishes, including Spiced Roasted Cauliflower Shawarma, Curried Squash Stew, Mushroom Congee (pictured above) and more! Check it out here.
If you’re looking for more veg-friendly recipes, there are tons of vegetarian and vegan food blogs these days! A few noteworthy ones include Rainbow Plant Life, The Korean Vegan, and The Simple Veganista. Also, Mark Bittman’s exhaustive How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook has helped us through many a meal, while his VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 book provides recipes and guidance on how to eat “flexitarian” for sustained health benefits. If you have an Instant Pot, we like The Vegan Instant Pot cookbook.
If you’re going to eat meat from grazing animals (like cows), consider supporting farms and farmers pursuing regenerative grazing. While beef results in very high emissions regardless of how the cows are raised, regenerative grazing practices can support healthy ecosystems. Under these practices (which are VERY different from industrial practices), grazing animals like cows, sheep, buffalo, and goats play an important role in providing manure, tilling the soil, increasing plant and microbial diversity, and reducing the need for external inputs such as fertilizer. Regenerative meat brands include: Niman Ranch; Applegate; Force of Nature, Epic, Country Archer Provisions, and Carnivore Snax.
If you're already vegetarian--good for you! If you still eat lots of dairy, consider cutting down on your cheese consumption. (Eeek, we know we know, everyone loves cheese. You don't have to give it up completely!) We're saying this because cheese has one of the biggest emissions footprints, which is why eating vegan before 6 and meat for dinner can actually result in lower emissions than just eating vegetarian full-time. Food for thought.
Learn and reflect:
Moving towards a plant-based diet is powerful, because eating less meat and dairy helps reduce methane and nitrous oxide–two greenhouse gases that, over the short term, have much more heat-trapping power than carbon dioxide. Cutting down on meat also helps reduce deforestation in places like the Amazon rainforest, which is often described as “the lungs of the planet.” That’s a place we want to stick around!
Read more from Project Drawdown about plant-based diets as a solution to climate change.
Read Jonathan Safran Foer’s article on cutting out meat and dairy before dinner to save the planet, or his book, We Are the Weather.
Looking for even more ways to fight climate change with your food choices? You could try cutting out palm oil from some of your products. Palm oil production is destroying rainforests, with devastating consequences for climate change (as well as for biodiversity and cute baby orangutans). Don’t drive yourself crazy with this one–palm oil is not well-labeled, and it’s in tons of grocery store items–but you can start by reading labels and looking for easy swaps. This site also lists palm-oil-free products.
Trying to be an overachiever here? You could also try to avoid “flying food”– food that has been transported by plane rather than ships or trucks. This is also a tricky one, because grocery stores usually don’t give you your food’s travel itinerary. The most likely culprits are out-of-season highly perishable products that came from far away–like berries in winter from a different hemisphere.