Red meat report criticised by industry

Pass the beans, hold the beef to save yourself and the planet

Scientists have developed a specific diet that could 'transform' the planet and save 11.6 million lives a year, and it involves less red meat and more vegetables

A planetary health diet that moves to healthier, more sustainable eating habits around the world could prevent 11 million early deaths per year by 2050.

It would also help to slow climate change, deforestation and the loss of species.

"Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%", the report reads.

The commission brought together 37 experts in agriculture, environmental sustainability, human health, and political science from 16 countries.

Researchers said unhealthy diets now cause more death and disease worldwide than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.

People would also be limited to 7g of pork a day - equal to a single cocktail sausage - and just 29g of chicken which is around one and a half chicken nuggets. Eggs would be restricted to around 1.5 per week.

"The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet".

The report from the Lancet Medical Journal suggests that the current global food system is unsustainable, with food production being the largest cause of global environmental change.

The report concludes: "An unprecedented opportunity exists to develop food systems as a common thread between many global, national and business policy frameworks aiming for improved human health and environmental sustainability".

"New Zealand is already adopting numerous strategies recommended by the report's authors including committing to healthy diet goals, reorienting agricultural priorities to producing high quality healthy food in a sustainable way and supporting biodiversity", says Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Chief Insight Officer, Jeremy Baker.

What the Have Nots don't have Somali women wait for food at a camp in Mogadishu
What the Have Nots don't have Somali women wait for food at a camp in Mogadishu

It has just delivered first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.

Increased food production has contributed to improved life expectancy and reductions in hunger worldwide, but these benefits are being offset by global shifts toward unhealthy diets high in excess calories from sugar and meat, the researchers said. And researchers have warned that we can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources.

In the next 31 years, they said the world should aim to halve the current amount of food waste. The diet allows for 2,500 calories per day, with variation, and puts limitations on animal based foods such as hamburgers (one per week), fish (two servings per week) and eggs (fewer than four per week).

He added that the food group intake ranges recommended by the Commission were flexible enough to accommodate different agricultural systems, cultural traditions, and individual dietary preferences.

The US meat industry disputed the report: "We disagree with the EAT-Lancet Commission's beef recommendations", the National Cattlemen's Beef Association said in a statement.

They stated that this could not be achieved voluntarily.

"The human cost of our faulty food systems is that nearly 1 billion people are hungry, and nearly 2 billion people are eating too much of the wrong food".

Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London said the report "reveals the full agenda of nanny-state campaigners".

"They say they want to save the planet but it is not clear which planet are they on".

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