If you’re interested in reducing the carbon footprint of what you eat, but don’t want to go vegetarian or vegan, try giving up beef and pork. The conventional production of both, from feed to slaughter to transport, is energy and water intensive. By not eating beef or pork, you basically eliminate that entire footprint from your personal consumption.
The global demand for meat has risen dramatically in the past few decades, leading to an increase in factory farms. This kind of mass inhumane production consumes enormous amounts of energy, pollutes the air and waterways, and requires increasing amounts of soy, corn, and other grains—often genetically modified and intensively sprayed with pesticides and fertilizer. This has led to the destruction of vast plots of the world’s tropical rain forests. There are many studies comparing vegetarian and meat-based diets. One often quoted statistic: a meal of fruits, vegetables, and grains generates 24 times less greenhouse gas emissions than 6 ounces (170 g) of conventionally raised beef.
Any major dietary change takes time to get used to. Swap in beans, vegetables, sustainably caught fish, plus organic and/or local antibiotic-free poultry, rabbit, and more. Look to cookbooks for inspiration.
The health benefits of eliminating beef and pork depends largely on what else you eat—processed foods don’t have the same benefits as whole foods. And it’s not inherently a safer diet—seafood can contain many contaminants and packaged ground turkey can have the same hazards as ground beef.