Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet

 
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
Healthy planet eating
How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet

                                                                                     istock

                                                 Friends of the Earth October 2010
                                                                              1
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
CONTENTS

    Executive summary				                                               3    About this research
                                                                             Having investigated the environmental
    introduction					                                                   4
                                                                             implications of a range of dietary options
    HOW MEAT CONSUMPTION HAS RISEN                                           in 2009’s Eating the planet? report,
    OVER THE LAST 50 YEARS		     			                                    6    Friends of the Earth commissioned
      Defining 'meat'					7                                                  Oxford University’s British Heart
                                                                             Foundation Health Promotion Research
    the health impacts of                                                    Group to analyse their likely impact on:
    excess meat consumption				8                                             • specific health conditions
      How would reducing meat consumption improve health?		 8                • mortality figures
      Cancer					10                                                          • NHS expenditure
      Heart disease and stroke 					                        12
      Obesity					13
                                                                             The meat and dairy content of the diets
      Premature death					14
                                                                             investigated ranged from the high meat
    ALL MEAT IS NOT THE SAME			                        		               15   diets most common in western countries
                                                                             to a lower level of meat and dairy
    calls for change						17
                                                                             consumption that could be produced
      Tracking what we eat					                                         18   without eating into the planet’s natural
      We eat what we are told					                                      19   resources, while allowing consumption
    HOW MUCH IS ‘LESS’ MEAT?					                                       20   growth to sustainable levels in developing
                                                                             countries.
    NUTRIENT INTAKE						21
      Nutrient					21                                                        This report summarises the key
      Protein					22                                                         findings of this analysis and presents
      Iron					23                                                            a comprehensive literature review
      Children					24
                                                                             of existing studies on the health
      The elderly					24
      Low income groups					 25                                              and environmental impact of meat
                                                                             consumption.
    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A HEALTHIER BALANCE		                           26
    REFERENCES							27                                                      It concludes with a series of
                                                                             recommendations for healthy and
                                                                             sustainable diets and the policy shifts
                                                                             needed to drive changes.

    Acknowledgements                                                         Friends of the Earth October 2010

    Research by Patricia Thomas. Modeling by Mike Rayner, Dushy Clarke and
    Pete Scarborough, British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research
    Group, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford.

    The key findings of this report are based on research by Oxford University: Modelling
    the impacts of the Fair Less Meat diet. This research, including the modelling and
    methodology, is available at www.publichealth.ox.ac.uk/bhfhprg/publicationsandreports

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Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
Executive summary

We are producing and consuming                 We could prevent 45,000 early deaths         Clear standards should be introduced to
increasing quantities of meat and dairy.       and save the NHS £1.2 billion each year      ensure that meals paid for by taxpayers
This is taking its toll on the planet and on   if we switched to diets that contain less    in schools, hospitals and care homes
our health – and very little is being done     meat in the UK.                              reflect environmental and health factors
to tackle it.                                                                               and reduce reliance on meat and dairy in
                                               Lower-meat diets could cut deaths from       menus.
The livestock industry is one of the           heart disease by 31,000, deaths from
most significant causes of global              cancer by 9,000 and deaths from strokes      The Government should shift support
environmental damage – generating              by 5,000 each year.                          from factory farming to the production
a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas                                                       of better-quality meat and a healthier
emissions. The UK’s reliance on imported       There is clear evidence of a link between    overall food production balance.
protein crops is also driving deforestation    high meat diets and a higher incidence
in South America. This is having a             of bowel cancer and heart disease with       Grass-fed meat and dairy products are
devastating impact on the people who’ve        some evidence of a link between high         healthier and more planet-friendly than
lived on the land for centuries.               meat diets and other cancers, diabetes       factory farmed options. They should
                                               and obesity.                                 be clearly labelled for consumers. This
Friends of the Earth and Compassion in                                                      would help people make more informed
World Farming’s 2009 research Eating           Processed meat is more damaging to           food choices and stimulate the market for
the Planet? showed that a move to lower-       health than unprocessed meats.               these products.
meat diets in the West would help protect
natural resources and enable us to move        Grass-fed beef has nutritional               Friends of the Earth is calling on the
away from factory farms and damaging           advantages over grain-fed options.           Government to implement these changes
intensive crop production.1 It would also                                                   within the framework of a Sustainable
allow for fair global food distribution and    The nutritional value of some meat has       Livestock Strategy.
nutritious diets for people in developing      decreased as a result of modern farming
countries.                                     methods. A standard supermarket
                                               chicken now contains significantly less
This new research reveals how this diet        protein and more than twice as much fat
could deliver a fairer deal for people,        as in 1970.
animals and the planet and analyses its
likely impact on the health of people in       Key recommendations
the UK. It also reviews existing evidence      There is an undeniable need for
on the relationship between meat and           widespread adoption of healthier and
dairy consumption and health. It outlines      more sustainable diets and more
the action needed to transform the UK’s        research is urgently needed to identify
food and farming sector into one that          the best mechanisms for change.
would work for people and the planet.
                                               Existing healthy eating and
Key findings                                   environmental behaviour guidelines
Over the last 50 years the quantity of         should be modified to include the benefits
meat produced around the world has             of eating less meat.
quadrupled while the global population
has doubled.

                                                                                                                                        3
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
introduction

                   Meat and dairy products form the               In the media the issue has been over-
                   centrepiece of most meals in the UK.           simplified and distorted.
                   Factory-style production and heavy                For example, in October 2009 climate
                   subsidies have made them plentiful and         change expert Lord Stern observed that
                   cheap in Europe and America.                   the environmental impact of a meat diet
                      Our increasing consumption – of meat        was higher than that of a vegetarian diet.
                   in particular – is prompting concern over      His comment was interpreted in reports
                   the impacts on people’s health and on          as “people will need to turn vegetarian if
                   the environment. But calls for changes to      the world is to conquer climate change”.3
                   diets and farming methods have tended             Similarly, in January 2009 a plan to
                   to produce a polarised and often ill-          reduce the amount of meat served
                   informed debate.                               in hospitals to healthier and more
                      This report aims to throw fresh light on    sustainable levels was included in an
                   the stalemate. It does so by presenting        NHS carbon reduction strategy.4 The
                   evidence on the health benefits of             proposal focussed on reducing meat,
                   switching to lower-meat diets.                 rather than cutting it out entirely, and
                                                                  sourcing local produce, but was reported
                   A cultural challenge                           as a “removal” and a “ban” on meat and
                   There is little doubt about the science.       was criticised in the media.5 The plan was
                   In the West we eat far more meat than          subsequently scrapped.
                   is necessary or healthy. Health experts           Ironically, we are more prepared than
                   say this is contributing to rising levels of   ever to throw meat away6. Historically
                   chronic diseases such as coronary heart        regarded as an indicator of affluence
                   disease, cancers and strokes.                  and, for many, a treat, meat is now
                      Such findings have led to calls for         artificially cheap and plentiful. The
                   nutritional advice to be revised to            growing quantities wasted suggest that,
                   encourage a reduction in total meat            along with other food groups, meat has
                   intake and discourage meat and dairy           become a throwaway commodity.
                   that is high in fat – particularly saturated      So our attitudes towards meat are
                   fat – and salt. Instead, small amounts of      complex. What is clear is the damage
                   better-quality fresh lean meat would be        that increasing consumption is doing to
                   recommended.2                                  the environment and people.
                      Yet such thinking is not reflected in any
                   UK Government guidelines or advice on          Environmental and social damage
                   healthy eating. Changing our concept           Meat and dairy production – now
                   of an average healthy diet is proving a        responsible for a fifth of global
                   challenge.                                     greenhouse gas emissions – is predicted
                      In the UK there tends to be an all-         to double by 2050.7 This is incompatible
                   or-nothing approach to meat eating,            with the need to cut emissions by at least
                   with little recognition or understanding       80 per cent in the same period to prevent
                   of the concept of a low-meat diet. It’s        the worst effects of climate change. 8
                   telling that, while people who eat no            UK factory farms are also driving
                   meat are identified and identifiable – as      deforestation and ruining lives overseas.
                   vegetarians – there is no commonly             Vast areas of forest and wildlife in South
                   accepted term for people who eat meat          America are being cleared to grow the
                   only a few times a week.                       protein needed to quickly bulk up millions
                      Attempts to raise awareness of the          of animals each year. This is forcing local
                   benefits of lower-meat diets and to            people off their lands and into hunger
                   change diets have proved controversial.        and poverty.

4
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
istock Martino/Panos
                                                                                                                                           Eduardo
  Cattle farm in the Brazilian Amazon

An alternative                               and distribution are as compelling as the    • reducing the burden of diet-related
There is already evidence that               environmental imperatives.                   disease on the NHS
consuming less meat would be good for           This report adds to the evidence by       • helping to create a thriving and planet-
the environment and would help feed a        presenting modelling on the impact of a      friendly UK farming sector.
growing population.                          lower-meat diet on people’s health and          This report sets out what the
   In 2009 Friends of the Earth and          NHS budgets. It also reviews:                Government needs to do to encourage
Compassion in World Farming published        • evidence of the health impacts of high     healthy and sustainable diets and food
Eating the planet?, a groundbreaking         meat and dairy consumption                   production.
report which demonstrated that we can        • the difference between good and bad           Grasping these opportunities would
feed a growing global population without     meat                                         transform the UK into a model for
destroying the world’s natural resources     • examples of healthy alternative eating     healthy, sustainable food production and
or relying on factory farms – and we don’t   advice and plans.                            consumption that, if adopted by the rest
need to give up meat.                           Eating less meat is not a silver bullet   of the world, would help ensure a fair
   The modelling in Eating the Planet?       that will deliver healthy eating and         share of the world’s food resources for
showed that by adjusting our diets we        living. But a growing body of evidence       everyone.
could feed a global population predicted     shows that we should get the majority
to be 9 billion by 2050. Rearing animals     of our nutrients from fresh fruits and
for food uses far more land, energy and      vegetables, whole grains and pulses,
water than growing crops to provide          with only small amounts of meat, dairy
people with the same number of calories.     and fish as additional sources of protein.
A diet containing no more than three         Recommendations on fish consumption
portions of meat each week would take        when stocks are under threat are beyond
pressure off the land and the climate.       the scope of this report but are covered
   The diet outlined in Eating the Planet?   by Greenpeace and Sustain.9 10
would mean a significant reduction in           Such a diet has many benefits
meat eating in the West, yet it would        including:
allow for more meat to be eaten in           • reducing the livestock industry’s
developing countries where there are         environmental impact – including on
high levels of malnutrition. There are       climate change
as many obese people in the West             • improving the health and wellbeing of
as there are malnourished people in          people in the UK, and indeed the rest of
poorer countries: the health and justice     the world
arguments for changes to food production

                                                                                                                                       5
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
HOW MEAT CONSUMPTION HAS RISEN OVER
    THE LAST 50 YEARS
    Over the last fifty years there has been a   middle class,14 although it is still well       of the modern animal husbandry and
    dramatic rise in global meat consumption     below European and US levels. Meat              livestock farming practices. These
    with the growth in the global livestock      consumption in China, for example, has          developments allow us to produce
    population far outstripping that of the      gone from an average of 20 kg per capita        staggering amounts of meat and milk
    human population.                            in 1980 to 52 kg in 2008.15 Although in         on relatively small parcels of land, and,
       Between 1961 and 2008 the world           India meat consumption has grown by 40          because animal foods are rich in protein,
    population increased by a factor of 2.2,11   per cent in the 15 years to 2007, it is still   as a boon to human health.
    but total meat consumption quadrupled        40 times less than average consumption             But the World Health Organization
    – from 71 million tonnes to 280 million      in the UK.                                      (WHO) is among many organisations
    tonnes – and poultry consumption                Between 1961 and 2008 the                    to suggest that in the West we now
    increased 10-fold – from 9 million tonnes    consumption of dairy products has               consume considerably more protein
    to 91 million tonnes.12                      doubled – from 344 million tonnes to            than is considered necessary or optimal
       According to the most recent data on      693 million tonnes.16 Dairy products are        for health.17 At the same time it is clear
    meat eaten per person – from 2002 – the      a good source of protein and a major            that the population explosion in livestock
    United States leads the developed world      source of calcium in the West. Dairy            has not eased world hunger. In fact,
    in meat consumption with each American       can also be high in fat and saturated fat.      with nearly a billion people starving, a
    eating an average 125 kg of meat a year.     However in response to public health            question mark hangs over how rational,
    Per capita meat consumption in Europe        campaigns to encourage lower total              or ethical, it is to feed such a large
    averaged 74 kg, while the average UK         fat and saturated fat in the daily diet,        proportion of edible grains and proteins
    citizen consumed 80 kg13 – equivalent to     there has been a substantial switch to          to animals.
    1,400 pork sausages each year, or nearly     consuming more low-fat products over               It is only recently that we have begun
    four a day.                                  the last 20 years.                              to quantify the human health and
       Demand is also growing in some               The abundance of meat and dairy in           environmental consequences of this
    developing countries as a result of          our diets is seen as an indication of our       exponential growth in livestock production
    rising incomes and a growing urban           increasing affluence and as a triumph           and consumption. The Friends of the

                                                                                                                                              istock

6
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
Earth reports Eating the Planet?18 and        The global spread of intensive farming          greenhouse gas emissions – including
What’s Feeding Our Food?19 show               has led to a major increase in the              9 per cent of man-made global carbon
that these burdens are both increasing        diversion of cereals and other grains           dioxide (CO2) emissions and 37 per cent
and unsustainable and there are now           away from the human food chain and into         of anthropogenic methane.24
numerous pressing reasons for adopting        animal production. For instance, today             These are excesses – in pollution
a lower-meat diet.                            97 per cent of the soymeal and 40 per           and resource use – that the world
   Compared to growing crops for direct       cent of cereals produced worldwide are          cannot support over the long term. But
consumption, rearing animals for food         used for animal feed.                           environmental excesses are not the only
uses large areas of agricultural land,           Animals’ feeding requirements mean           impact of rising livestock consumption.
vast quantities of water and significant      that livestock uses 70 per cent of all             Studies into human health are
amounts of energy. It is a cause of           available agricultural land, and uses 8 per     beginning to show that, in the same way
deforestation and land use change,            cent of the global human water supply.23        that excess fat and excess sugar in the
generating greenhouse gas emissions           With growth in demand for livestock             diet can be detrimental to health, excess
and destroying valuable carbon sinks and      products set to continue, more land and         meat consumption can have profoundly
wildlife habitat. The livestock industry      more water – and more food that could           negative consequences for our health
is also a significant drain on energy         be consumed directly by humans – is             including higher rates of heart disease,
resources: growing grain for livestock        being turned over to feeding livestock,         stroke, cancer, and premature death.
requires large energy inputs in terms         further exacerbating the associated                At the same time it is becoming clear
of fertilisers and pesticides. It is also a   impacts.                                        that all meats are not the same in terms
significant source of pollution.20               Because of all these inputs, the             of their impact on health. As the science
   The economic burden of animal food         contribution of animal farming to the           has become more sophisticated and
consumption is also high because of           production of greenhouse gases and              begun to differentiate between fresh
the large amounts of grain that need          climate change is substantial. The              meat and that which is preserved or
to be grown to feed farmed animals.21         United Nations Food and Agriculture             highly processed, data now shows that
One kilogram of intensively-reared beef       Organization (FAO) estimates it is              the greatest negative impact on health
requires up to 10 kg of animal feed.22        responsible for 18 per cent of global           comes from consumption of the latter.

Defining 'meat'
In terms of sheer volume of raw materials     ‘bad’) fats and carbohydrates and this          refers to poultry and sometimes fish.
and goods, modern farmers and food            knowledge has been incorporated into               In the scientific literature and in this
producers are highly productive. Human        healthy eating guidelines.                      report, processed and preserved meat
beings have made substantial gains                Just as there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’          are defined as any meat preserved by
in health and longevity thanks to this        fats and carbohydrates it is increasingly       smoking, curing or salting, or with the
productivity.25 However this abundance        becoming acknowledged that there are            addition of chemical preservatives, for
has not benefitted mankind universally        also ‘good’ and ‘bad’ meats.                    example bacon, salami, sausages, hot
– 925 million people worldwide are                In very early studies of meat intake        dogs or processed deli or luncheon
undernourished due to lack of access to       little distinction was made between             meats (including some white meats such
good food in sufficient quantities.26         different types of meat, indeed ‘meat’          as turkey and turkey ham). This type of
   In addition, much of the abundance         has no common definition in scientific          meat often contains a number of harmful
we enjoy is in the form of high fat, high     research. More recent studies,                  substances including heterocyclic amines,
sugar foods which are energy intensive to     however, have begun to make important           polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,29 and
produce27 and also damaging to health.28      distinctions between fresh and preserved/       N-nitroso compounds30 formed in the
   Rising rates of obesity and chronic        processed meats and between red and             high temperature cooking of meat. The
diet-related diseases suggest that in the     white meats.                                    nitrate and nitrite preservatives added
midst of this abundance means we have             In general, the term ‘red meat’ refers to   to processed meats are also known
‘forgotten’ how to discriminate. Science      beef, lamb and pork; as a broad category        precursors to N-nitroso compounds (see
is helping us to relearn this skill. We       it includes both fresh and processed/           All Meat is not the same, page 15).
now understand the difference between         preserved meats. ‘White meat’ is less well
healthy and unhealthy (or ‘good’ and          defined but in scientific research usually

                                                                                                                                            7
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
new research
    THE HEALTH IMPACTS OF EXCESS MEAT CONSUMPTION

    The health effects of reduced meat                  Yet studies show that excess meat in          This requires strong, clear,
    consumption are becomming well                 general, and preserved and processed             unambiguous guidance from health and
    established in the scientific literature. As   meats in particular, can add high amounts        food policy makers. As the data on the
    the study populations themselves have          of fat, saturated fat and salt to the diet.      harmful effects of consumption of excess
    become larger and as the methodology           The most important health impacts of             meat continues to amass, the case
    of such studies has become more                excess fat and sodium include increased          becomes stronger for a thorough re-
    sophisticated, the weight of the evidence      risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer,        evaluation of healthy eating guidelines.
    has grown. A valuable picture has              as well as an increased incidence of
    emerged of how the balance of meat and         obesity and premature death.                     How would reducing meat consumption
    dairy and other foods in our diets can act         In contrast, diets where plant-based         improve health?
    to improve or harm health.                     elements dominate are associated with            New research carried out by Oxford
       Much of the early data on diet,             lower body weight,32 greater longevity33         University’s British Heart Foundation
    lifestyle and health came from studying        and a lower rate of certain chronic              Health Promotion Research Group for
    vegetarian lifestyles. Other data comes        diseases especially diabetes, heart              Friends of the Earth used the DIETRON
    from long term observational studies           disease, and some cancers.34                     modelling system to analyse the health
    which look at what people eat and what             The cost to the NHS of diet-related          implications of a range of diet scenarios.36
    diseases they develop over time.               illness is estimated to be twice that of car,    It concluded that switching from current
    Still more comes from intervention             train and other accidents and more than          diets to a diet that contains two or three
    studies where people who are suffering         double that of smoking.35 Diet-related           meat meals each week and a small
    from a chronic illness or who are at high      illnesses, however, can be prevented.            amount of dairy each day would prevent
    risk of illness are switched to more plant-    It has been estimated that the NHS               45,361 deaths each year (see graph).
    based diets.                                   could save around £6 billion a year if
       Such data highlights the health             the excesses and inadequacies in our             Table 1: Change in cost to the
    properties of a diet high in fruits,           current diets could be addressed in the          2006/07 NHS budget (baseline 2007 UK diet)
    vegetables, unrefined grains and               same proactive way adopted to address
                                                                                                     Disease 	Current     Less  Fair Less
    pulses and moderate amounts of meat            the health impacts of smoking. New
                                                                                                              diet trends	Meat	Meat
    equivalents such as soy. Studies show          modelling carried out by Friends of the
                                                                                                     CHD       +£0.05bn      -£0.57bn    -£0.80bn
    that those who eat little or no meat and       Earth shows that widespread adoption
                                                                                                     Stroke    +£0.00bn      -£0.07bn    -£0.10bn
    dairy are often healthier than the general     of lower-meat diets could prevent 45,000
                                                                                                     Cancer    +£0.02bn      -£0.20bn    -£0.30bn
    population.31                                  deaths and save the NHS £1.2 billion
                                                                                                     Total     +£0.07bn      -£0.85bn    -£1.20bn
       However, it is a mistake to place too       each year – see graph 1B.
    narrow an interpretation on these studies.
    There is firstly a tendency, particularly
                                                   A note on the diets
    in older studies, to group all vegetarians
    and vegans together even though there          These diet scenarios are based on Friends of the Earth and Compassion in World Farming’s
    are important differences in nutrient          2009 report Eating the planet? which analysed different diet options and farming methods to
                                                   assess their impact on global food production and the feasibility of feeding the estimated
    intake between a strict vegan diet, a strict
                                                   population in 2050 – nine billion.
    vegetarian diet, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian
    diet (which allows milk and eggs) and a        ‘Current diet trends’ reflects the level of meat and dairy that will be eaten in the UK if
    lacto-ovo-pesce vegetarian diet (which         trends around increasing consumption are projected into the future.
    allows dairy, eggs and fish). In addition      ‘Less meat’ is based on satisfying growing food and nutritional demands with a lower meat
    to eating few or no animal products,           diet with 30 per cent of protein from animal products.
    vegetarians and vegans also tend to
                                                   ‘Fair less meat’ assumed a fair distribution of nutritionally sufficient diet that allows for meat
    practice other healthy activities that
                                                   2 or 3 times each week and some dairy each day.
    contribute to their overall level of health,
    including taking more exercise and             In place of the contribution of meat and dairy, the ‘Less Meat’ and ‘Fair Less Meat’ diets include
    smoking less.                                  more fruit and vegetables, and an increase in the amount of starchy carbohydrates. These
                                                   changes, in combination with a reduction in saturated fat from meat and dairy and a reduction
                                                   in salt from processed meats, are responsible for the predicted changes in health outcomes
                                                   displayed in graph 1b and table 1. With a reduction in food waste and more fair food distribution
                                                   and diets, this scenario would feed the world and allow for planet-friendly farming methods.37

8
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
Graph 1B: Change in annual mortality by cause
    (baseline 2008 average UK diet)

                          45,361

                                                                                                                                                 Current diet trends

                                                                                                                                                 Less Meat

                                                                                                                                                 Fair Less Meat

                 32,352

                                               31,094

                                      22,149

lives saved

                                                                                             8,920

                                                                                     6,176
                                                                       5,346

                                                              4,027                                                                      4,610

                                                                                                                                 3,083
                                                                                                                   1,610                                                         2,321
                                                                                                                                                                         1,552
                                                                                                           1,077
                                                                                                                                                  50   464   379

                Total deaths              CHD                 Stroke             Total cancer          MLP cancer          Oesoph. cancer         Stomach cancer    Lung cancer

                                                        202                    491                   102                   292                                     147
increase
in Deaths
              2509                 1817

                                                                                                                                                                                   9
Healthy planet eating - How lower meat diets can save lives and the planet
how meat consumption affects health
     Cancer
     The relationship between diet and cancer       of developing bowel cancer by 63 per         Breast Cancer
     has become increasingly clear over the         cent. The report went on to recommend        A 2006 study which followed more than
     last few decades. Cancer is responsible        limiting overall consumption of red meat     90,000 premenopausal women for 12
     for 7.4 million deaths globally each           to between 300 g (11 oz) - 500 g (18 oz)     years50 found that, compared with those
     year, about 13 per cent of all deaths.38       a week – equivalent to around 2 ounces       who eat three or fewer servings per week,
     The WHO estimates that 30 per cent             daily – very little if any of which should   women eating three to five servings of red
     of cancers in the developed world (and         be processed meat. This compares to          meat weekly have a 14 per cent higher risk
     20 per cent in developing countries) are       the current UK level of consumption          of a hormone-dependant breast cancer,
     caused by dietary factors. In the UK it        of around 190 g (6.6 oz) each day,           while those eating more than five servings
     is estimated that 26 per cent of cancers       according to the latest National Diet and    a week have a 42 per cent increased risk.
     could be prevented by altering diet.39         Nurition Survey.45                              Two of the largest studies so far,
                                                       How meat intake causes cancer is          the pan-European EPIC study51 which
     Colorectal cancer                              still not completely understood. There       followed more than 300,000 women and
     The relationship between diet and              is, for example, no strong association       the US AARP Diet and Health study52
     cancer is particularly strong for colorectal   between high fat intake and bowel            which followed more than 188,000 women,
     (bowel) cancer. In 2005 a European             cancer risk independent of meat intake.46    have also found that that those who
     study involving more than a half a million     One Swedish study, for instance, found       eat the most saturated fat have a small
     people found that, amongst people who          that women consuming the highest             increased risk of breast cancer.
     regularly ate more than two portions of        amounts of full-fat dairy products              There are several ways in which meat
     red and processed meat a day, the risk of      had a significantly lower risk of bowel      intake could affect breast cancer rates.
     developing bowel cancer was 35 per cent        cancer,47 and a randomised trial found       Some observers suggest it is the result
     higher than for those who ate less than        that switching to a low-fat diet offered     of increased fat intake from red meat and
     one portion a week.40                          no significant protection against the        dairy.53 It has also been suggested that
        The conclusions of this study are           disease.48                                   high dietary fat intake may increasing
     in line with the results of three meta-           Instead it has been suggested that        circulating levels of oestrogen and other
     analyses,41 42 43 which show a 20-30 per       the contaminants and additives such          hormones.54 The association between
     cent increased risk of bowel cancer in         as nitrates in processed meat may be         dietary fat and breast cancer, however,
     those eating 100-120 g/day of red meat         influential (see page 15).                   remains controversial55 and not all studies
     and up to 50 per cent increased risk of           The heme iron component of red meat       show a link.56
     bowel cancer in those eating 25-30 g/day       (see page 23) is also associated with
     of processed meat.                             the generation of free radicals, highly      Stomach and Bladder Cancer
        The broadest and most authoritative         reactive molecules that can cause the        Some,57 but not all,58 data links meat intake
     report on the link between meat and            kind of cellular damage and mutations        with bladder and stomach cancer and
     bowel cancer, however, comes from              known to influence cancer and other          this, research suggests, may be related
     the World Cancer Research Fund                 diseases.                                    less to fat and more to the additives and
     (WCRF) which, over the last decade,               Any or all of these mechanisms may        contaminants in many red meat products.
     has forensically reviewed all the              come into play, and even though the             In a 2010 study of over 300,000 men
     available studies to date on the possible      mechanisms are not fully understood,         and women, those whose diets had the
     relationships between meat and dairy           the strength of the evidence was such        highest amount of total dietary nitrite (from
     intake and cancer.44                           that the WCRF recommendation to limit        all sources including meat), as well as
        The WCRF report found convincing            red meat was quickly incorporated into       those whose diets had the highest amount
     evidence that eating more than 500 g of        UK Department of Health guidelines, as       of nitrate plus nitrite from processed
     red meat each week significantly raised        well as being recommended in a recent        meats, had a 29 per cent increased risk of
     the risk of bowel cancer. In particular        Cabinet Office report on food policy.49      developing bladder cancer.59 (For more on
     eating 150 g of processed meat a day              Although the evidence is strongest for    additives in processed meat see page 15).
     (equivalent to three sausages or three         colorectal cancer, other cancers have also
     rashers of bacon) increases the risk           been associated with high-meat diets.

10
Dairy and cancer                                 – equivalent to that found in three cups          In a 1998 Harvard study men who
Links between dairy products and cancer          of milk per day – were associated with a       drank two or more glasses of milk a day
are less conclusive. The WCRF found              modestly higher risk of ovarian cancer,        were almost twice as likely to develop
that data for the relationships between          compared to those with the lowest              advanced prostate cancer as those who
milk and dairy products and cancer was           intakes.61 The study did not find any          didn’t drink milk at all.64 The association,
either “too sparse, too inconsistent, or         association between overall milk or dairy      however, appeared to be with calcium
the number of studies too few to allow           product intake and ovarian cancer.             itself, rather than with dairy products in
conclusions to be reached”.60                       Likewise, some researchers have             general.
   Some components of dairy products             hypothesised that modern industrial               Another more recent analysis of the
have been linked to specific cancers             milk production practices have changed         same group of men found that those
but it is not clear what would make one          milk’s hormone composition in ways that        with the highest calcium intake – at least
person more vulnerable than another.             could increase the risk of ovarian and         2000 mg a day; well in excess of daily
For example, high levels of galactose,           other hormone-related cancers.62 More          recommended levels – had nearly double
a sugar released by the digestion of             research, however, is needed to confirm        the risk of developing fatal prostate
lactose in milk, have been linked to             this.                                          cancer as those who had the lowest
ovarian cancer. The association is not              The Western diet relies on milk as a        intake (less than 500 mg per day).65 But
absolute, but in a recent analysis of            major source of calcium. In men a diet         again, more study is needed to confirm
12 studies, which involved more than             high in calcium has been implicated as a       this finding.
500,000 women, high intakes of lactose           risk factor for prostate cancer.63

Cancer protective foods

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Certain diets, for instance those with           cancers,74 75 as well as some types of
high intake of fruits and vegetables, are        stomach cancer.76 But it has also found that
cancer protective. Eating beans, peas            fruit and vegetables are unlikely to reduce
or lentils at least twice a week has been        the risk of breast, prostate, ovarian or
associated with a 50 per cent lower risk         kidney cancers.77 78 79
of bowel cancer compared to those who               Healthy fats, such as those found in
never eat these foods,66 whereas the risk        oily fish may be protective. In one study
of developing the disease increases for          the risk of bowel cancer decreased by
those people who have a low-fibre diet.67        30 per cent amongst people who ate one
   Studies have found that people who eat        portion or more of fish which contain
the most fruit and vegetables can lower          essential fatty acids every other day
their risk of cancer by around 25 per cent       compared to those who ate fish less
compared to those who eat the least.68           than once a week (this study also linked
69 70
       Specifically, including plenty of fruit   low fibre intake to development of the
and vegetables in the daily diet has             disease).80 However not all studies show
been shown to reduce the risk of mouth,          a generalised benefit from increased
oesophageal and laryngeal cancers by             essential fatty acid consumption for all
around a third71 72 and the risk of lung         types of cancer.81 82 Many trials, however,
cancer by around a quarter.73                    use supplements in isolation rather than
   The ongoing pan-European EPIC                 fresh fish as part of a balanced diet, and
study has found a similar protective             this may affect outcomes.
effect on mouth, oesophageal and lung

                                                                                                                                               11
how meat consumption affects health
     Heart disease and stroke
     The relationship between excess meat         unprocessed and processed red meat                  Data on fat and its relationship to
     and dairy and cardiovascular disease         relates to the risk of heart disease, stroke     heart disease is less clear. Several major
     (CVD, collectively heart disease and         and also diabetes.85 The researchers             studies86 87 88 have found no link between
     stroke) has been linked to the high          identified and analysed 27 quality studies       total fat intake and important health
     amounts of sodium and saturated fats in      involving more than 1,200,000 people             outcomes such as heart disease, cancer
     many of the meat and dairy products we       from 10 countries on four continents.            and even weight gain.
     consume.                                        The researchers identified two reasons           Fat is an essential nutrient and the
        It may come as no surprise that           for the raised CVD risk. While both types        body requires a balanced spectrum of
     there is a strong link with sodium. High     of meat contained similar amounts of             dietary fats to be healthy. Fat is a major
     blood pressure is a major risk factor        fat, the amount of sodium in processed           source of energy and aids the absorption
     for coronary heart disease and stroke.       meats was four times that of fresh meat.         of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and
     While there are many risk factors for high   Processed meats also contained 50 per            E. It’s important for proper growth and
     blood pressure, high intake of sodium,       cent more nitrate preservatives.                 development and cell and nerve function.
     a component of salt, is one of the most         The results showed that, on average,          Fats are an especially important source
     convincing.83 This is an area that has       a 50 g (1.8 oz) daily serving of processed       of calories and nutrients for infants and
     been generally well studied, and it has      meat was associated with a 42 per                toddlers.
     been shown that reducing salt intake can     cent higher risk of developing heart                However, not all fats are the same in
     also reduce the risk of Coronary Vascular    disease and a 19 per cent higher risk            terms of their impact on health and total
     Disease (CVD).84                             of developing diabetes. In contrast,             fat intake is probably less important to
        However, until recently sodium in         eating unprocessed red meat was not              heart health than the relative balance
     relation to meat intake has not been         associated with risk of developing these         of specific fats such as saturated and
     given much focus.                            diseases. Too few studies evaluated the          unsaturated fats and the presence of
        In 2010 the Harvard School of Public      relationship between eating meat and risk        trans fats89 (see Heart-protective foods,
     Health conducted the first systematic        of stroke to enable the researchers              page 12 for more on fats).
     review and meta-analysis of the              to draw any conclusions.                            Research has shown, for example,
     worldwide evidence for how eating                                                             that saturated fat can raise blood levels
                                                                                                   of "bad" low density lipoprotein (LDL)
                                                                                                   cholesterol, and that elevated LDL is a
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                                                                                                   risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
                                                                                                   Because of this, most of us are advised
                                                                                                   to limit our intake of fatty meat, butter and
                                                                                                   full-fat dairy products ­– our main dietary
                                                                                                   sources of saturated fat.
                                                                                                      In 2010 an analysis that combined the
                                                                                                   results of 21 previous studies, and which
                                                                                                   included a total of nearly 348,000 adults
                                                                                                   followed for between 5 and 23 years,
                                                                                                   found no conclusive evidence that higher
                                                                                                   saturated fat intakes led to higher risks of
                                                                                                   heart disease or stroke.90 However, this
                                                                                                   analysis has been critiqued for having
                                                                                                   major flaws that have been pointed out
                                                                                                   in subsequent peer correspondence and
                                                                                                   articles.91
                                                                                                      In the UK the trend for our overall
                                                                                                   intake of saturated fats is going down,
                                                                                                   but our intake is still too high (from
                                                                                                   12.6-14.6 per cent of daily calories for
                                                                                                   adults when the ideal level is lower than
                                                                                                   10 per cent). At least 48 per cent of the
                                                                                                   saturated fat in the UK diet comes from

12
Heart-protective foods

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Heart health, like all health, is dependent         Essential fatty acids (EFAs) may also
on a balanced intake of nutrients                be protective. The UK Government now
and it is likely that the rise in meat           recommends a minimum intake of 1 per
consumption in the West may have                 cent of energy from linoleic and similar
occurred at the expense of heart-                omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (found in
protective foods such as wholegrains,            large amounts in vegetable oils such as
fruits and vegetables.98 99 100                  sunflower and corn oils), and 0.2 per cent
   One of the largest and longest studies        of energy from alpha-linolenic and similar
into health and dietary habits followed          long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated
110,000 American men and women for               fats (found in large amounts in fish but
14 years. Those with the highest intake          also in vegetable oils such as rape seed
of fruits and vegetables (eight servings         oil).104 This recommendation comes after
or more a day) were 30 per cent less             decades of research showing that higher           A more specific dietary intervention,
likely to have had a heart attack or stroke      levels of EFAs can reduce the risk of          substituting saturated fats with long chain
compared to those with the lowest intake         CVD, and other diseases.                       omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown
(less than one-and-a-half servings a                A recent analysis by researchers            to lower the incidence of heart disease
day). 101                                        at Harvard School of Public Health             in several trials.107 108 109 These findings
   A later meta-analysis which included          provided substantial evidence from             warrant further investigation, but as a rule
this US data along with several other            randomized clinical trials that substituting   the Western diet consumes omega-6 fatty
long-term studies in the US and Europe,          polyunsaturated fattty acids (PUFAs)           acids to excess while levels of omega-3
found that people who ate more than five         for some of our daily saturated fat can        are generally deficient. Replacing some
servings of fruits and vegetables per day        reduce this risk by up to 19 per cent.105      meat in the diet with more vegetables,
had roughly a 20 per cent lower risk of          For every 5 per cent increase in PUFA          wholegrain, pulses and oily fish, may
coronary heart disease102 and stroke,103         consumption, coronary heart disease risk       help rebalance fats in the diet by raising
compared with those who ate less than            was reduced by 10 per cent. This effect        intakes of PUFAs and long chain
three servings per day.                          has been noted elsewhere.106                   omega-3 fatty acids.

meat and dairy products92 which are also         products saturated fats were replaced          high calorie foods with overweight and
the major sources of dietary cholesterol.        with trans fats, which are also a particular   obesity is ‘probable’ while the evidence
Unlike the cholesterol that the body             high risk for heart disease.95 96 Saturated    linking meat and dairy consumption itself
makes from exposure to sunshine, dietary         fat has also been replaced by increased        with overweight and obesity is ‘limited
cholesterol can raise levels of cholesterol      consumption of refined carbohydrates,          and inconclusive’.111
in the blood,93 which in turn is a risk factor   i.e. sugars which are also highly                 There are significant overall differences
for atherosclerosis. Because the body            important risk factors for heart disease.97    in weight between those who eat meat
can make its own cholesterol, we have no                                                        and those who don’t. In a 2006 analysis
real need of ‘extra’ cholesterol from our
                                                 Obesity                                        of the literature on diet and obesity, 29
food.94 A lower-meat diet could healthily                                                       out of 40 studies showed that non-meat
meet our needs for fat, without adding           Obesity is on the rise in the UK and           eaters weighed significantly less than
extra cholesterol which we do not need.          throughout the world (including in             meat-eaters. This was observed in both
   Over the past several decades, the            developing countries where others              males and females and across various
food industry has reduced the amount             are starving),110 and while there are          ethnic groups.112 Generally speaking,
of saturated fat in many products, and           suggestions that this rise is linked with      non-meat eaters also had healthier
the public has reduced the amount                higher intake of meat and dairy products,      lifestyle habits such as more exercise
of saturated fat in its diet. But there          evidence is mixed. Some meat and dairy         and less smoking, and this may have
has been a wide variation in the types           products can be high in calories and the       influenced this outcome. However, the
of nutrients that have replaced this             WCRF suggests that the evidence linking        authors note that, in some of the studies
saturated fat. For example, in many              the consumption of large amounts of            reviewed, even when meat eaters and

                                                                                                                                               13
how meat consumption affects health
     Obesity
     non-meat eaters had similarly healthy       oxidant properties of heme iron, found     cent higher risk of dying of cancer and a
     lifestyles the differences in weight        only in animal products. High dietary      27 per cent higher risk of dying of heart
     remained.                                   intake of heme iron as well as high body   disease. For women the figures were 20
        In another analysis comparing 55,459     stores of iron have previously been        per cent and 50 per cent respectively.
     healthy women with omnivourous or           associated with increased diabetes risk       In relation to death from all causes, the
     vegetarian diets who were part of a         in multiple studies,116 117 whereas dietaryresearchers estimated that 11 per cent of
     prospective breast cancer study, 40         non-heme iron (found only in plant foods)  deaths in men and 16 per cent of deaths
     per cent of omnivorous women were           was protective. Heme iron from fish and    in women could be prevented if people
     overweight, compared to 29 per cent of      poultry has also been associated with      decreased their red meat consumption to
     semi-vegetarians and vegans, and 25 per     diabetes risk118 (for more on heme iron    around 5 ounces per week – a little less
     cent of lacto-ovo vegetarians.113           see page 23).                              than that recommended by the WCRF.
        Results from a study of 37,875 healthy                                                 Preliminary results from a European
     men and women participating in the
                                                Premature death                             study of vegetarians and non-
     pan-European EPIC study – the largest                                                  vegetarians, however, presented different
     single study of Western vegetarians        Chronic disease increases the risk of       findings.121 The study looked at the
     and vegans to date – found that after      premature death. There is evidence that     diets of 55,000 British meat eaters and
     adjusting for age, mean body mass          a high intake of meat may make this         vegetarians. The mortality of people in
     index (BMI) was significantly highest      more likely and Friends of the Earth’s      both categories in these studies is low
     among meat eaters (24.4 in men, 23.5       recent modelling supports this              compared with national rates and overall
     in women) and lowest in vegans (22.4       (see page 8).                               mortality rates did not differ significantly
     in men, 21.9 in women). Individuals who       A 2009 study from the London School      between those who ate meat and those
     consumed no meat as well as fish eaters    of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine119         who did not. Vegetarians had 11 per cent
     had comparable mean BMI which fell in      explored the health and environmental       higher mortality from all cancers, 13 per
     between the other groups.114 BMI is not a  impacts of lower meat consumption.          cent higher mortality from stroke, and
     particularly sophisticated measurement,    It found that reducing consumption by       10 per cent higher mortality risk from all
     but it provides a rough estimate of a      30 per cent could reduce the greenhouse other causes, but a 7 per cent reduced
     person’s ‘fatness’ or ‘thinness’ based on  gas emissions from livestock production     mortality from all circulatory diseases and
     calculations of height and weight.         as well as reducing the number of           25 per cent lower risk of death from heart
     The ‘normal’ range for BMI falls between   people who die each year from heart         attack. The authors suggest this is due to
     18.5 and 25.                               attacks by 17 per cent (around 18,000       lower levels of cholesterol in the blood.
                                                individuals in the UK). The authors            For all causes of death combined,
     Diabetes                                   linked this reduction in mortality to a     earlier comparative studies such as the
     Excess body weight is the most important reduction in saturated fat intake.            Health Food Shoppers Study122 and the
     risk factor for diabetes. Although it is      Also in 2009, in the largest study of    Oxford Vegetarian Study123 also found
     common to think of diabetes as a disease its kind, researchers at the US National      almost identical mortality amongst those
     associated with high intake of unrefined   Cancer Institute assessed the association who did and did not eat meat.
     carbohydrates, several studies now show between meat intake and risk of death             Why the data should be so conflicting is
     that high intake of meat, which contains   among more than 500,000 individuals,        unclear. The US study however involved
     no carbohydrate, increases the risk of     aged 50 to 71 years old. They found that a significantly larger study population
     diabetes. A 2009 meta-analysis found       older people who eat large amounts of       and this may have given it greater power
     that high total meat intake increased      red meat and processed meats faced          to detect differences between the two
     type-2 diabetes risk 17 per cent above     a greater risk of early death from heart    dietary regimes, such as the wide range
     low intake, high red meat intake (around   disease and cancer.120                      of different meat consumptions and the
     120 g per day) increased risk 21 per          Participants were followed for 10 years. impact of red versus white meat and
     cent, and high processed meat intake       Compared to those who ate the least red fresh meats versus processed meats.
     (around 50 g per day) increased risk 41    meat, and after adjusting for other risk    However, the omnivores in the European
     per cent.115                               factors such as smoking, family history of study may also have been generally more
        The reasons for this increased risk are cancer and high body mass index, men        health conscious than average.
     not yet clear. One possibility is the pro- who ate the most red meat had a 22 per

14
ALL MEAT IS NOT THE SAME

Preserved and processed meats                   could prevent 9, 35, 10 and 33 per cent      cent of the salt in the UK diet comes from
A study conducted by researchers from           of colorectal, liver, lung and oesophageal   these meat and dairy products.130 High
the US National Cancer Institute found          cancers respectively.                        salt intake, as previously noted, is one of
a link between stomach cancer and the              There is also data linking the red        the clearest dietary causes of high blood
consumption of heterocyclic amines in           meat consumption and PhiP – the most         pressure.131
cooked meats. The researchers found             abundant heterocyclic amine in cooked           In a recent study by Harvard
that those who ate their beef medium-           meat – and an increased risk of bladder      researchers into the link between meat
well or well-done had more than three           cancer.126                                   intake and CVD, the researchers found
times the risk of stomach cancer than              Red meat is not the only problem.         that while fresh and processed meats
those who ate their beef rare or medium-        The production of heterocyclic amines        contained similar amounts of fat, the
rare. They also found that people who ate       (HCAs) can be more concentrated in           amount of sodium in processed meats
beef four or more times a week had more         grilled chicken than in beef.127 One study   was four times that of fresh meat.
than twice the risk of stomach cancer as        from New Zealand that investigated           Processed meats also contained 50 per
those consuming beef less frequently.124        levels of HCAs in meat, fish and chicken     cent more nitrate preservatives. It was
   This was, admittedly, a very small           found the greatest contributor of HCAs       these risk factors, the researchers said,
study. However in a much larger study           to cancer risk was chicken.128 This could    which linked higher intakes of processed
of nearly half a million people in the US,      explain why the consumption of chicken       meat to higher risk of CVD.132
heterocyclic amines were also found to          has also been linked to colon cancer: a         As Table 2 below shows there are
increase the risk of colorectal, liver, lung,   1998 study examined the eating habits of     significant differences in the nutrients in
and oesophageal cancers in those with           32,000 adults for six years and found that   fresh and processed meats.
high intakes of red meat compared to            those who avoided red meat but ate white        Processed meat contains less protein
those with the lowest intake.125 Based          meat regularly had a more than three-fold    per 100 g than fresh meat. The fat and
on 2500 calories a day, high intake in          increase in the disease.129                  sodium content of processed meat
this study would equate to around 157              Preserved meats are also very high        compared to their fresh counterparts is
g or 4.5 ounces per day and low intake          in salt. In the UK, most meat and dairy      also significantly higher: a pork sausage,
would be around 25 g, or 1 ounce per            consumption is in the form of processed      for example, has nearly three times more
day. It was estimated that reducing meat        foods (e.g. cheese, bacon, ham,              fat and more than 14 times the sodium of
intake in line with the lowest intake levels    sausages, and ready meals) and 40 per        a grilled pork steak.

Table 2: FRESH VERSUS PROCESSED MEAT

 	Mean daily intake+                                                   g/100 g++              mg/100 g++

 		Men                                          Women        Protein       Fat	Iron	Sodium
 FRESH MEAT
 Pork steaks**			                                               32.4         7.6      1.10           76
 Pork loin chops**              no data		         no data       29.9       15.7       0.70           70
 Pork diced casseroled***			                                    31.7         6.4      1.00           37

 Total per day (week)        19 g (133 g)       9 g (63 g)

  Processed MEAT
                                                                                                                + Source: NDNS, 2008 133
 Bacon*                          18 g            10 g           23.8       26.9       0.80        1680          ++Source:
                                                                                                                   McCance & Widdowson, 2002 134
 Pork Sausages**                 21 g             12 g          14.5       22.1       1.10        1080
                                                                                                                * lean and fat, grilled
 Total per day(week) 39 g (273 g) 22 g (154 g)                                                                  ** lean only
 			                                                                                                            ***streaky, grilled

                                                                                                                                           15
istock
     This table highlights selected pork
     products only, but these differences
     hold true for most types of fresh versus
     processed meat products. It seems
     clear that adjusting our diets to eat less
     but better quality meat could make a
     substantial difference to protein, salt and
     fat intake without sacrificing nutritional
     adequacy.
       The differences make a compelling
     case for the nutritional advantage of less
     but better quality meat in the diet.

     Red meat versus white meat
     The term ‘red meat’ refers to beef, lamb
     and pork; as a broad category it includes         The study also found that between              One large and very recent study
     both fresh and processed/preserved             1980 and 2004, levels of the omega-3           published in the Journal of Animal
     meats. ‘White meat’ is less well defined       fatty acid DHA in conventionally reared        Science141 found that sirloin steaks and
     but in scientific research usually refers to   chickens fell by 85 per cent between           minced beef from grass-fed beef cattle
     poultry and sometimes fish.                    1980 and 2004, while omega-6 –                 had lower total fat levels than those from
        The healthiest meats are lean meats         the overabundance of which in our              grain-fed cattle, almost four times as
     – regardless of their colour. With regard      diets has been linked to diseases              much omega-3 and slightly less omega-6
     to blood cholesterol levels, there is no       like cardiovascular disease, cancer,           as grain-fed animals. The meat from
     particular advantage to eating lean white      and inflammatory and autoimmune                grass-fed animals also had almost twice
     instead of lean red meat.135 Comparison        diseases139 – increased by 260 per cent.       the level of CLA.
     of diets that include lean red meat and                                                          Grass-fed farming fits well into the
     lean white meat (in preference to more         Grass-fed beef                                 proposal that we should be eating less
     fatty meats) show similar benefits.136         Similar fatty changes have taken place         but higher quality meat. With grass-fed
        In the UK, intake of ‘unhealthy’ red        in red meats. Studies comparing the            animals, herd sizes are naturally limited
     meats has dropped over the last few            meat of intensively reared (ie grain fed       to what the land can support, which
     decades while poultry consumption has          and mainly housed) cattle with that from       means we cannot over produce. Farming
     doubled.137 But intensively reared poultry     grass-fed animals suggest that the diet        within environmental limits reduces
     meat, fed on a diet of maize and soy, has      and lifestyle of livestock – for instance,     overall production levels compared to
     become increasingly fatty over the last        whether the animal is grazed or fed on         factory farming methods and has the
     40 years.                                      high protein artificial feed, whether it       knock-on effect of encouraging more
        Recent data from researchers at             gets exercise in a field or is confined to a   optimum consumption levels. As part of
     London Metropolitan University has             barren feedlot – can make a substantial        a mixed farming system, grazed animals
     shown that a typical supermarket chicken       difference to the composition and              contribute to, rather than detract from, the
     today contains 2.7 times as much fat as        balance of fats in its meat.                   health of the surrounding land.142
     in 1970 and 30 per cent less protein.138          More than a dozen studies have now             The relatively small amounts of
     Just 16 per cent of a chicken is now           found that grass-fed cattle have a more        essential fatty acids that could be derived
     protein, compared with almost 25 per           desirable, higher ratio of the omega-3         from grass-fed meat in a reduced meat
     cent 35 years ago. As a result an average      to omega-6 essential fatty acids.140 The       diet may be insufficient on their own to
     serving of chicken contains almost 50          meat of grass-fed animals also has             affect cardiovascular health, but the right
     per cent more calories than it used to.        higher levels of beneficial conjugated         balance between omega-3 and omega-6
     Organic chicken had slightly more protein      linoleic acid (CLA), as well as lower          is particularly important for heart
     and 25 per cent less fat, but was still a      overall levels of fat than grain-fed           health.143 The more high-quality food we
     great deal fattier and less meaty than         animals.                                       have in our diets, the greater the likely
     chickens in the past.                                                                         synergistic effect on health.

16
calls for change

In the last year or so government                  In 2010 a major report into                 the changes “...likely to have the most
agencies throughout the world have              sustainability and resource use compiled       significant and immediate impact on
begun to make broad recommendations             by the International Panel for Sustainable     making our diets more sustainable, in
for diets that meet our nutritional needs       Resource Management for the United             which health, environmental, economic
without exhausting the limited resources        Nations Environmental Programme                and social impacts are more likely to
of the planet.                                  (UNEP)149 noted that the only way to feed      complement each other”.151
   In 2001, with the publication of its Third   the world while reducing climate change           A 2009 UK government report,
Assessment Report144 on climate change          is to switch to a less meat heavy diet."       Securing Food Supplies up to 2050,152
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate          A substantial reduction of impacts”,           notes that it is not enough to cut meat
Change (IPCC) concluded that “a shift           it said, “would only be possible with a        production unless we also address meat
from meat towards plant production for          substantial worldwide diet change".            consumption. That same year Lord
human food purposes, where feasible,               Commenting on the report Achim              Nicholas Stern, author of the influential
could increase energy efficiency and            Steiner, Executive Director of the UNEP,       2007 Stern Review on the Economics
decrease greenhouse gas emissions”.145          said that on reviewing all the available       of Climate Change, gave an interview
   In 2009 the Swedish Government               scientific evidence “...two broad areas        to The Times newspaper in which he
made a series of recommendations for            are currently having a disproportionately      warned that ‘business as usual’ scenarios
cutting greenhouse gas emissions which          high impact on people and the planet's         would lead the world into economic and
included eating less meat. It noted: “From      life support systems - these are energy        environmental disaster.
a health perspective, there is also no          in the form of fossil fuels and agriculture,      One such scenario was our habitual
reason to eat as much meat as we do             especially the raising of livestock for        consumption of meat: “I think it’s
today".146                                      meat and dairy products”. He added             important that people think about what
   Also in 2009 in the medical journal          that ordinary consumers can help fight         they are doing and that includes what
the Lancet, members of an international         climate change by eating less meat.            they are eating.” He added: “Meat is a
collaboration of scientists coordinated by         In the UK there are no official             wasteful use of water and creates a lot
the Wellcome Trust suggested that there         recommendations for reducing meat.             of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous
would be considerable health benefits           The expert body on nutrition, the              pressure on the world’s resources.
from food and agriculture strategies            Government's Scientific Advisory               A vegetarian diet is better.”153
aimed at reducing greenhouse gas                Committee on Nutrition (SACN), only               In 2010 Sir Liam Donaldson, the UKs
emissions.147                                   advises that: “Lower consumption of            Chief Medical Officer, noted in his Annual
   In the US, nutritional recommendations       red and processed meat would probably          Report154 that meat and dairy contribute
are for around 6 ounces (160 g) of meat         reduce the risk of colorectal cancer... it     substantially to global greenhouse gas
or meat equivalent per day and are              may be advisable for intakes of red and        emissions and to chronic diseases such
accompanied by copious information              processed meat not to increase above           as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
on what healthy meat equivalents are. It        the current average (70 g/day) and for         Commenting on his report he said:
should be noted that this recommended           high consumers of red and processed               “Our diet is warming the planet. It is also
intake is still substantial, though             meat (100 g/day or more) to reduce their       damaging our health. Changing our diet
represents a significant reduction on           intakes”.150                                   is difficult, but doing so would both help
average daily US intake of around                  However, the mounting evidence on           slow climate change and bring significant
8 ounces per day of meat and poultry.           the health and environmental benefits          health benefits...[reducing the UK's
   In an editorial accompanying the             of meat reduction suggest that it is at        consumption of animal products by 30 per
analysis, Margaret Chan, Director               the very least on the table for debate.        cent by 2030] would reduce heart disease
General of the World Health Organisation        In 2009 the Sustainable Development            by 15 per cent – a substantial reduction
(WHO) offered the opinion that “reduced         Commission (SDC), which advises the            – and it would prevent 18,000 premature
consumption of animal products in               UK government on sustainability issues,        deaths every year... These are contentious
developed countries would bring public          recommended that reducing consumption          matters but they need to be openly
health benefits.”148                            of meat and dairy products was amongst         debated and options weighed up.”155

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