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How to transition to reduced-meat diets that benefit people and the planet

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Niki RustORCiD, Dr Beth ClarkORCiD, Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD, Professor Philip McGowan



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Overwhelming evidence shows that overconsumption of meat is bad for human and environmental health and that moving towards a more plant-based diet is more sustainable. For instance, replacing beef with beans in the US could free up 42% of US cropland and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 334 mmt, accomplishing 75% of the 2020 carbon reduction target. We summarise the evidence on how overconsumption of meat affects social, environmental and economic sustainability. We summarise the social, environmental and economic effectiveness of a range of dietary interventions that have been tested to date. Because meat eating is embedded within complex cultural, economic, and political systems, dietary shifts to reduce overconsumption are unlikely to happen quickly and a suite of sustained, context-specific interventions is likely to work better than brief, one-dimensional approaches. We conclude with key actions needed by global leaders in politics, industry and the health sector that could help aide this dietary transformation to benefit people and the planet.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rust N, Ridding L, Ward C, Clark B, Kehoe L, Dora M, Whittingham MJ, McGowan P, Chaudhary A, Reynolds CJ, Trivedy C, West N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

Year: 2020

Volume: 718

Print publication date: 20/05/2020

Online publication date: 08/02/2020

Acceptance date: 07/02/2020

Date deposited: 10/02/2020

ISSN (print): 0048-9697

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1026

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137208


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