Want to help the environment? Cut your beef consumption in half, new report says

According to the report, beef accounts for roughly half of agricultural land use and emissions associated with U.S. diets, but provides just 3 percent of the calories.

SHARE Want to help the environment? Cut your beef consumption in half, new report says
Americans consume a beef equivalent of three hamburgers per week. One researcher says they need to immediately cut that down to a hamburger and a half. 

Americans consume a beef equivalent of three hamburgers per week. One researcher says they need to immediately cut that down to a hamburger and a half.

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A new report is calling for a big shift in people’s diet as a way to help the environment. 

The World Resources Institute released a report earlier this month that proposed reducing beef consumption as one of the strategies to achieve a sustainable food future by 2050. The institute is a global research organization that focuses on issues related to development and the environment.

According to the report’s lead author, Tim Searchinger, Americans consume a beef equivalent of three hamburgers per week. He says that they need to immediately cut that down to a hamburger and a half. 

But it’s not just Americans. The study found that roughly 2 billion people living in countries that eat a lot of beef need to reduce their consumption by about 40 percent.

“This is a huge global challenge,” Searchinger said.

According to the report, beef accounts for roughly half of agricultural land use and emissions associated with U.S. diets, but provides just 3 percent of the calories.

Searchinger suggests that consumers should shift from cattle, sheep and goats to chicken, pork and vegetable-based alternatives.

Decreasing the amount of beef consumption helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production, which is part of the organization’s goals detailed in the report.

An industry group has disagreed with the report’s findings.

Citing numerous studies, including from the US Department of Agriculture, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement sent to USA TODAY that a well-balanced diet that promotes health and sustainability does not include eliminating single foods, like beef.

“Most people are already eating beef within global dietary guidelines, so we assert the biggest opportunity for a healthy sustainable diet will come from reducing food waste, eating fewer empty calories and enjoying more balance meals,” the NCBA said. 

The WRI report also recommends:

  • Reducing growth in demand for food and other agricultural products
  • Increasing food production without expanding agricultural land
  • Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and limiting agricultural land-shifting
  • Increasing fish supply

In a livestreamed event hosted on the WRI website, World Bank Group Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck highlighted the importance of meeting these goals. The organization worked in partnership with WRI to create the report. 

“There are 30-odd planting seasons left between now and 2050,” Tuck said at the event. “So we need to see these incentives and changes in place tomorrow and today.”

The global population is projected to grow to 9.8 billion in 2050, the study reported. During this time, food demand is expected to increase by more than 50 percent.

The report was partly funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. 

Read more at usatoday.com.

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