The Food Trend That Boosts Health (& Battles Climate Change!)

Veggies have reached a tipping point among health-conscious chefs, meeting planners, and their groups. From broccoli rabe to shitakes and kale, they’re all pushing meat to the side—or entirely off the plate in some cases. The grassroots trend officially went mainstream when Bon Appétit named Al’s Place, in San Francisco’s Mission District, America’s best new restaurant in 2015. Al’s does amazing things with vegetables—and lists most of its meat under “side dishes.”

A recent study from the University of Oxford, published in February 2016, points beyond culinary trends and serious health concerns to yet another reason to curb your inner carnivore. Not only do high percentages of animal-sourced protein in the diet shorten our lifespans by up to 10 percent, they flood the planet with greenhouse gases.

According to the report (and many other sources), the global food system produces more than a quarter of all greenhouse gases—and 80 percent of that comes from raising livestock. Hard to believe, but beef production contributes to global warming more than all cars, planes, trains, and ships combined.

Fast Facts

  • In terms of greenhouse gases, a family of four skipping steak once a week equals taking their car off the road for nearly three months.
  • Cattle’s digestion process produces 20 percent of all US methane-gas emissions. Methane is 23 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide from fossil fuel. Every cow releases about 66 to 79 gallons of methane per day. And there are currently 92 million cattle in the pipeline.
  • The US beef industry routinely implants natural and synthetic hormones into cattle to speed up their growth. Rated safe for human consumption by the FDA, the hormones nevertheless raise health concerns, especially for those with beef-centric diets.
  • Serving chicken rather than beef at a 2,650-person banquet saves enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool.

According to data from the USDA, Americans will eat an estimated 54.3 pounds of red meat per person this year, up a half a pound over last year due to lower prices. But that’s far less than the 94.3 pounds we ate in 1976. Hopefully, as awareness grows, we’ll see greater benefits in terms of both climate change and health as more and more vegetables step up to the plate.

Photo credits:

Annette Burden

Annette Burden

Annette Burden has written and edited for Elite Meetings International since 2007. In addition to writing on travel for other publications, she founded and edited Meeting Traveler, Resorts & Great Hotels, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazines.

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