Besides the multitudes of benefits at a personal level, increasing plant-based diets can have a major impact on the world at large, especially where resource management and greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. When considering dietary changes, a plant-based diet for climate change can be a big reason to introduce more plant products.
Resource Demand of Meat-Products
Our resource management is impressively strained by meat-production. As reported in Nature, “the meat-based food system required more energy, land, and water resources than the lactoovovegetarian diet.”
Wait, what the heck is “lactoovovegetarian?”
Lactoovovegetarian is another term for a “plant-based” diet. It refers to a diet in which a person consumes plant produce, dairy, and eggs; but not other animal-products like meat. Unlike pescatarian, an lacto ovo vegetarian doesn’t consume fish. Unlike vegan, the lacto ovo vegetarian does consume dairy and eggs.
More specifically, at every comparison point, meat-products demand more resources than plant products. In a simple-way, to raise livestock we have to grow crops for feed. With plant-based eating, those crops could go directly into the food system for us instead.
So, at that first stage, livestock production is already hugely taxing. The amount of grain needed to produce meat varies depending on the meat. For chicken, the ratio is 2.3 while beef is a whopping 13. Chicken is much less taxing than beef, which requires resources at the highest level (alongside lamb) compared to other meat-products.
Knowing this, it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that meat protein requires 11 times more fossil energy than plant protein. But, once again, the ratio differs for types of meat. Chicken is only four times greater (in energy cost) compared to grain while beef is 40 times greater. In the same way, water usage increases from crops to larger livestock exponentially.
All of this combines to show that producing meat-products, but especially red meats is a hugely inefficient process for our limited Earthly resources: energy, land, crops, and water.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Meat-Products
Beyond what we’re using up to raise livestock for meat products, the emissions from their production is incredibly impactful.
The resource cost of producing animal-based products, compared to plant-based products, is major. To produce a gram of beef or lamb, emissions are 250 times higher than producing pork, chicken, dairy, fish, or legumes. To picture that concept differently, we can produce 20 servings of vegetables while producing less greenhouse gas emissions than one serving of beef.
The more meat-products we demand as consumers, the more greenhouse gases are emitted in their production. Compared to a standard consumer, industrial emissions are at another scale. Your personal choices from recycling to avoiding all single-use plastics will never stack up to balancing out with industrial emissions. So, supporting greener industries is a hugely impactful way to support your personal passion for environmentally-friendly actions.
How to Switch to a Plant-Based Diet for Climate Change
Like any life changes, adjusting your diet shouldn’t be done all at once. All positive changes, no matter how small, are positive. So, start with small introductions or swaps that feel comfortable. One super easy swap is a plant-based protein powder like Empathy Plant Co.! With our packaging, it’s one swap with doubly good implications for the Earth.
Once you’ve made easy swaps, experiment with plant-based meals without restrictions or rules. Introduce vegetable-based recipes that you like. Plant-based dining shouldn’t feel like a punishment! It’s a celebration of products and flavors. If you have friends who are already plant-based, ask them to share or cook their favorite recipes for a positive introduction.
By switching to plant-based products incrementally and with positive experiences, the switch won’t feel like you’re giving up meat, but instead like you’re discovering plants! We believe strongly in the power of small changes, so start small with big impact.