A sustainable diet means eating within environmental limits that consider future generations. It also means ensuring that our food system protects the health of everyone, including the people who grow, make and serve our food all along the supply chain from farm to fork.
One of the most direct and significant ways we can create sustainable diets is to eat “less and better” animal products. This means consuming less meat, dairy and eggs; supporting the farmers and ranchers who are raising animals sustainably; and making sure that everyone has access to the healthiest options. Read more about the case for less and better meat.
What we’re doing
Friends of the Earth is putting sustainability on the menu. We work with many different food buyers, from individuals and school districts to city governments and fast food chains, to drive positive changes in menus, markets and policy.
What you can do to eat less and better meat
- Check out our Guide to Avoiding Factory-Farmed Meat and Dairy. Eating less and better meat and dairy is one of the simplest ways you can have a major positive impact on the environment. Meat is typically the most expensive items on the shopping list; when you eat less meat, you can use the savings to choose more sustainably-raised animal products.
- Try Meatless Monday and look for great plant-forward recipes at vegweb.com, meatlessmondays.org and vegetariantimes.com/recipe.
- Ask your supermarkets and restaurants to carry more plant-based options and to source more humane, pasture-raised and/or organic meat and dairy products. Leave comment cards, speak to the manager and post on their Facebook pages.
- Buy local and direct by shopping at your local farmers’ market or visiting LocalHarvest.org or EatWild.org.
- Animal products are the most resource-intensive foods we eat.
- Most food animals are raised in factory farms where they are fed a diet of genetically engineered corn and soy grown with toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers which pollute our rivers and groundwater.
- Raising billions of animals in confined areas also generates massive amounts of toxic manure that pollute our air and water.
- Overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistant “superbugs,” one of our most pressing public health problems.
- Research also shows that substantial reductions in meat and dairy consumption are imperative to mitigating climate change.
- Evidence shows that people who eat plant-based diets live longer and healthier lives and have lower risks of diet-related diseases like heart disease, cancers, obesity and diabetes.
- Along with improving people’s lives, a shift toward more plant-based foods will save the nation billions of dollars in health care costs given that chronic diseases account for an estimated 75 percent of all healthcare costs.
- Finally, jobs on factory farms and slaughterhouses are associated with some of the highest rates of worker injury and illness.
- More sustainably-raised options, like organic meat and dairy, are better for people and the planet.
- Organic means that all animal feed is grown according to national organic standards, dramatically reducing pesticide and synthetic fertilizer pollution in the environment.
- Organic animal products also expose eaters to lower levels of pesticides, heavy metals and feed additives like synthetic hormones.
- Animals raised to the organic standard must have access to the outdoors, including pasture in the case of cows, sheep and goats.
- Animals that are raised on well-managed pastures can help sink carbon in the soil, and their manure becomes a source of nourishment for soils and crops rather than a source of pollution, as it is on factory farms.
- Many studies have found that animals raised on pasture provide meat with higher levels of beta-carotene, conjugated linoleic acid, Vitamin E and Omega-3 fats, known to reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease.
Reports and resources
This report grades America’s top restaurant chains on their policies and practices regarding antibiotic use and transparency in their meat and poultry supply chains. All but five companies received a failing grade.
This report from Friends of the Earth Europe and Heinrich Böll Foundation invites you to take a trip around the world to give you insights into the global connections made when we eat meat. Informed, critical consumers can shift the market with their decisions and demand the political changes needed.
A Healthy and Sustainable Food System, Rootstock Radio, interview with Friends of the Earth’s Kari Hamerschlag on our efforts to change the food served at restaurants, Aug. 30, 2016