New Diet Recommendations Aimed at Saving the Planet Urge Dramatic Changes in Americans’ Eating Habits

January 17, 2019, 11:22 AM UTC

If we’re going to feed 10 billion people on a warming planet, some of us—ahem, Americans and Canadians—have to cut back on meat, a landmark report released on Thursday says.

The Lancet medical journal and nonprofit EAT studied what healthy diets from sustainable food systems should look like. The current system has gotten so out of whack with the planet, the report says, that nearly 1 billion people are going hungry while 2 billion people are eating too much.

Specifically, those of us who are overfed need to cut back on red meat to help reduce the carbon emissions created by such food production, but people who are currently underfed should actually eat more beef and lamb. The report says people in North America eat more than six times the recommended amount of red meat, while people in South Asia eat half of what they should.

The report lays out global targets for what constitutes a healthy diet, based on an average intake of 2,500 calories a day. That includes about half an ounce of beef or lamb a day—the equivalent of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder every eight days, the New York Times reports.

That recommendation has riled up some agriculture industry groups. While it agreed food waste should be reduced, the Animal Agriculture Alliance said cutting animal protein could “risk worsening malnutrition, increasing food waste, and distracting from the highest priorities for addressing greenhouse gas emissions.” In a statement the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called beef “nourishing and sustainable.”

The report says individual consumer choices are not enough to avert “catastrophic damage to the planet,” and urged government to produce more “nutritious plant-based foods,” reduce food waste and improve access to nutritious food. “A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet,” EAT said. “It is not a question of all or nothing, but rather small changes for a large and positive impact.”

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