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Oxford study finds eating less meat could be like ‘taking 8M cars off the road’

An Oxford University study published this month suggested that the U.K.’s high-meat eaters switching to low-meat diets would be equivalent to “taking 8 million cars off the road,” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, led by Prof. Peter Scarborough – a member of the Livestock Environment And People (LEAP) project – surveyed 55,000 people, separating them into high-meat, low-meat, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan groups. “High meat” eaters were defined as consuming more than 100 grams of meat a day (the equivalent of a large burger) on average, while “low meat” diets were those averaging 50 grams or less.

Researchers found that high-meat diets produced an average of 10.24 kg of greenhouse gasses per person per day, in contrast to the 5.37 kg produced by low-meat diets – a nearly halved emission level with just half the meat consumption.

Land use reflects this as well, with high-meat diets requiring about 16.78 square miles of land to support, while low-meat diets require only 8.31.

Researchers say the study is the first to specify in detail the difference in impact between low and high-meat diets.
“Our results show that if everyone in the UK who is a big meat-eater reduced the amount of meat they ate, it would make a really big difference,” said Prof. Scarborough. “You don’t need to completely eradicate meat from your diet.”

Britain’s meat industry makes nearly £9.5 billion ($12 billion) a year and employs tens of thousands of people. Leaders in the industry accused the study of overstating the environmental impact of meat.

”One of the frustrations with a report like this is that it looks just at the emissions from livestock production,” said British Meat Processors Association CEO Nick Allen, per a BBC report. “It doesn’t take into account that carbon gets absorbed into the grassland, trees, and hedgerows. If they took those sums into account you would probably have a different picture.”

(Photo courtesy of Iain McDonald | CC BY-SA 2.0)


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