The meat-lover’s guide to eating less meat – The Denver Post

By Melissa Clark, The New York Times

For all of my adult life, I’ve reveled in rare rib-eye steaks and oozing Camembert. I won’t let go of my drumstick until I’ve gnawed off every bit of cartilage and golden skin, and it’s best to not even talk about bacon so crisp that it won’t bend for that first porky bite.

Yet over the past few months, I’ve cut way down on my lamb chops and grilled cheese sandwiches. And if you’re meat-and-dairy eater who aches over the environmental state of our planet, then you may be thinking of doing the same thing, too.

It started in the spring, when my Food colleague Julia Moskin teamed up with Brad Plumer from The New York Times Climate desk to report on how our current food system is contributing to climate change. The results were crystal clear and deeply depressing. Meat and dairy production alone account for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — as much each year as from all cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined. It’s a staggering statistic.

I’d always considered my food choices to be outside the problem. I get a local farm box of produce every week, and frequent the farmers’ market for more vegetables, as well as grains and ethically raised meat. I limit seafood that’s not sustainable, and when I do shop at a supermarket I mostly fill my cart with organic whole foods that are not highly processed (the occasional bag of Cheetos aside).

Evidence is piling up, though, that this isn’t enough to make an impact. Only drastic changes will make a difference. The World Resource Institute, an environmental research group, recommends that wealthy nations cut their beef, lamb and dairy consumption by 40% to meet global emissions goals for 2050.

Becoming vegan would be the most planet-friendly way to go, followed by going vegetarian. In my case, those diets would be a professional liability, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve got the willpower to stick to either one. I love meat and dairy too much to give them up entirely. But eating less of them — that I can do.

On the upside, eating less meat and dairy means there is more room on my plate for other delectable things: really good sourdough bread slathered with tahini and homemade marmalade, mushroom Bourguignon over a mound of noodles, and all those speckled heirloom beans I keep meaning to order online.

So how much meat and dairy should we actually be eating? And if we reduce our intake severely, do we then need to worry about getting enough protein?

According to Marion Nestle, an author and professor emeritus of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, if you are getting enough calories, then you are getting enough protein. (That is, unless you are an elite athlete.)

“People are very concerned about protein, but it’s a nonissue,” she said. “It’s in grains, it’s in vegetables, it’s everywhere. It will find you.”