Food News: EWG’s Release of the 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide

by in Food News, July 18, 2011
london broil
Make smarter, healthier, greener choices.

We’ve been keeping you updated on the Environmental Working Group’s how-to list for buying organic produce (a.k.a. – the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen). Today they’re unveiling the much anticipated 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide – a tool to help educate consumers about the environmental impact of their protein choices.

How It Works
EWG partnered with the environmental analysis firm CleanMetrics to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with 20 popular proteins that Americans consume. Red meat, pork, poultry and fish were obvious points of interest, but vegans and vegetarians should also pay attention – protein sources like milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts and some vegetables were also evaluated.

If everyone in the U.S. skipped meat and cheese one day a week it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road. According to the guide, eating 4 ounces of conventionally raised beef emits the same amount of greenhouses gases as driving a car more than 6.5 miles. If you think that’s disturbing, lamb scored 50-percent higher! Cheese came out close to 3.5 miles while foods like lentils, tofu and milk scored less than one mile. It turns out many of the highest scoring were also those highest in artery-clogging saturated fat. So cutting back has a benefit to your health and the environment.

The extensive guide is also full of tips and resources to help consumers make eating meat “greener” by choosing more humanely produced sources. While choosing organic and grass-fed options are more expensive, cutting back on overall consumption can help offset the costs.

More Features
•    A colorful chart demonstrating protein consumption and car miles driven.
•    An online pledge to skip meat and cheese one day a week.
•    Information on how making dietary changes can improve health.
•    A label decoder to make sense of terms like “cage-free”, “grass fed”, “hormone free” & “natural.”
•    An online quiz to test your environmental know-how.

Experts Weigh In
Here’s what a couple of our favorite food advocates had to say:

“The fact is, most people in the U.S. eat way more meat than is good for them or the planet, but even knowing this, the chances are little that we are all going to become vegetarians, much less vegans. Asking everyone to go vegetarian or vegan is not a realistic or attainable goal, but we can focus on a more plant-based diet and support the farmers who raise their animals humanely and sustainably. This is why I am such a big believer in the Meatless Monday Movement and the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health.” – Mario Batali, chef, restaurateur, award-winning author, and television personality

“The single most important thing any of us do to shrink the environmental footprint of our eating is to cut back on our meat-eating – doing so has a much bigger impact than eating local or organic. Meatless Monday is one way to do it; another is to treat meat as a flavoring or side dish rather than as the main event of a meal. It need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. EWG’s guide gives consumers solid advice on how to improve one’s health and the environment by making better informed choices, particularly around which meat and how much they eat.” – Michael Pollan, best-selling author, In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma

View the 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide

Tell Us: Will you use the Meat Eater’s Guide to help make greener choices?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (1,157)

  1. I am a cattle producer in Colorado, and very proud of it. Many reports today have misinformation and don't have all of the facts right. Please, please visit http://www.explorebeef.org to get scientific and enviromental facts before you make up your mind about this article.

    • Healthy Eats says:

      we're not saying to eat less meat, just to be more educated about the protein you consume!

      • GetTheAgFacts says:

        Hmmmmm….then how do you explain "self-proclaimed food expert" and "journalist" M. Pollan's statement? "The single most important thing any of us do to shrink the environmental footprint of our eating is to cut back on our meat-eating….."

        • Ddee says:

          Question for you? What makes M Pollan a food expert? Does he have a college degree in nutrition? Is he a scientist? No he is a journalist out to make a buck regradless of what he has to do or say. Cattle Producers are enviromentalist as well as world feeders. Did you know our farmers and ranchers are feeding twice as many people with 1/2 the land then they did 20 years ago? These same people take care of the land and their animals all the while providing the world with healthy, safe and nutritious food. Get the real facts!

  2. Go Meat! says:

    There is no way I would participate in a Meatless Monday! With the help of a family doctor (who happens to raise beef cattle), he taught me that I wasn't including enough lean meats in my diet and was eating way too many carbs. I was recently diagnosed as a prediabetic. Once I started adding more lean meat into my diet and reduced my carb intake, my blood sugar levels went to normal levels and my cholesterol is now perfect — best it has been in years!

    Once I was diagnosed as a prediabetic, I did some checking on protein alternatives, too. Sure, I could find other sources to get my protein but when I looked at options like peanut butter, for example, I’d have to eat nearly seven tablespoons (which has just over 650 calories and more fat) to get the same amount of protein in just one 3 oz. portion of beef at only about 180 calories and 25 grams of protein. Raw tofu was also higher at one cup/250 calories. Sorry, but tofu is not a favorite tasting product in my book.

  3. AgEnvironmentalist says:

    Climate change and meat production? Last time I looked at the U.S. EPA data, ALL OF THE AGRICULTURE SEGMENT only contributed to just over 6 percent of the total greenhouse emissions — and livestock is just a small percent of this entire figure – 2.8 percent. I personally believe this is very impressive and not the environmental problem some of the statements in this blog make it out to be.

  4. Miranda says:

    Eat Beef! Meet the people that grow our food at http://www.watchusgrow.org

    Thank you for all the positive farm and beef producer post. Great to see!

  5. Kristy says:

    Beef is Best! I am a 50 year old women, that just ran her first marathon & won my age division in my first triatholn….nothing refuels my body better than beef!! I also eat plenty of veggies & dairy products, staying away from processed carbs & SURGAR!! FMI on the healthy benifits of including beef in your diet..go to explorebeef.org…..links are availble for more info!!!!

  6. I very like eat beef,it's very good food,

  7. A beef Producer says:

    I am a beef producter in the Sandhills of Nebraska. I read so much misinformation in that article and wish you would go to the web site http://www.explorebeef.org and see just how we beef producers care about our land and the cattle we raise. Freedom of press allows anyone to write about anything without facts to back up what they say. Please take the time to be informed–I'll not be having a meatless Monday.

  8. RD Eats Beef says:

    The simplistic Meatless Monday's, is a catchy sound bite, but short on the real facts. A suggestion: please at least give both sides and recommedations based on facts. Talking to environmental researchers who have the science-based expertise to present correct information is a service to your readers. As a registered dietitian I have explored and visited all types of food production operations: beef, dairy, eggs, produce to learn how America's small percentage of famers work hard to produce food sustainably at affordable cost to a large and hungry populace. You can learn too about this issue. http://bovidiva.com/

  9. BeefisBest says:

    Beef is a delicious and nutritious muscle-building protein that is vital to good health. If we Americans would cut back on the carbs and sugar and choose one of the 29 cuts of lean beef along with green vegetables we would be in much better shape. Nothing satisfies like beef, especially for so few calories. Meaty Mondays for Me!

  10. The Slave of the Husband…

    Trying to get forward to researching additional from you afterward!……

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