EWG Releases “Meat Eaters Guide to Health and Climate, 2011”

EWG Releases “Meat Eaters Guide to Health and Climate, 2011”

EWG's Meat Eaters Guide

On Monday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), in conjunction with CleanMetrics, released an informational report for meat-eaters on the health and environmental effects of meat production and consumption. Per capita, meat production and consumption is highest in America, but developing countries are fast approaching American production/consumption patterns.

By conducting a lifecycle analysis of 20 various animal products and vegetable proteins, they concluded (unsurprisingly) that lamb, beef, cheese, pork, and farmed salmon generate the largest carbon footprint. A bit more surprising was the conclusion of the EWG on the lower-impact animal-based food items, which include milk, chicken, and canned-tuna. The report also stresses the health benefits of reducing meat consumption, which include lowering rates of chronic disease, obesity, and risks associated with antibiotics, hormones, and toxins used in animal-based products.

Compared to vegetable derived proteins that generate most emissions from their processing, transport, cooking, and waste disposal, animal-based products have the highest emissions released during the production phase of their lifecycle. In addition, EWG reveals that food waste is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EWG is able to provide readers with a helpful breakdown of reducing their consumption of animal-based products that puts their decisions in a familiar context.

  • If you eat one less burger a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time.
  • If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks-or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.
  • If your four-person family skips steak once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for nearly three months.
  • If everyone in the U.S. are no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles-or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

The report also contains several easy-to-read and helpful infographics for the public to understand the scale and impacts of their consumption patterns.

EWG suggests to meat-eaters that they pledge to go meatless on Mondays as a benefit both to their bodies and to the environment. While beneficial, Brighter Green suggests that individuals go a step further and forgo animal-based products all together.

While thoughtfully examining the health effects of meat consumption, the EWG report fails to examine the social cost of consuming animal-based products as well as the moral implications of supporting a production industry based on cruelty and exploitation. Additionally, besides a brief mention of food waste climate impacts in the lifecycle analysis, the “Meat Eaters’ Guide” overshadows the incredible inequity embedded in our global food systems. Currently, consumers in the U.S. discard 30%+ of the fresh and frozen food they buy, while close to 1 billion people worldwide suffer from food insecurity. Ultimately, a strong base of policy reform in the agricultural, educational, and trade sectors must be promoted worldwide.