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

The Environmental Working Group is unveiling the 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide: a tool to help educate consumers about the environmental impact of their protein choices.

Sliced London Broil on a wooden cutting board alongside white handled cutlery

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Food Network

Tara Donne, Food Network

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

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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