Image via Unsplah | Declan Rex
Despite what you may have heard, meat can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Meat provides a rich source of complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body depends on for proper functioning. It’s also a natural source of energy-giving and immune-system-boosting minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium and vitamins like A, B, and D.
Meat can also be part of an eco0conscious lifestyle. The important thing to consider is where we source our meat, what variety we eat, how much we consume, and how we cook it. These four factors significantly impact the eco-friendliness of what’s on your plate. Following the four guidelines for greener meat eating below, you can have confidence you’re getting enough nutrients while lowering your impact on the planet.
Go local or organic
The ideal situation is to find a local and organic farmer that you can connect with for your meat-eating needs. However, for the majority of us in cities and even smaller communities, finding local and organic options is just not possible. In these common cases, we can still increase the eco-friendliness of meat-eating by choosing one or the other.
Local options are great because they cut down on transportation emissions and ensure the freshest product possible. In many situations, you can also visit the farm and develop a deeper connection to where your food comes from.
Organic options may travel greater distances to get to your grocery store, but the production process itself is more likely to be sustainable. After all, it’s a well-known fact that organic farms tend to have a lower environmental impact than factory farms or conventional operations. Organic farmers value their land and animals as a life-sustaining resource, and because of this, they care for both in a way that rivals any other methods.
Swap red meats for white
Red meats like beef and lamb require greater resources and emit higher levels of methane gas that contribute to global warming. White meats like turkey and chicken are more eco-friendly because they take less land space than other animals and they contribute less gas to the atmosphere.
Bonus: They cost less per pound on average as well. It’s a win-win.
Know your portions
We tend to forget that portion sizes play a role in the eco-friendliness of any food source. With meat, you really don’t need much to get your daily dose of nutrients—and consuming more than the recommended serving sizes is both wasteful and unhealthy. Putting more on your plate than you can finish is also wasteful and contributes to the existing burden on our landfills.
Most adults only require about two to two-and-a-half servings of meat a day. Knowing what equals one serving of meat is made easy by this portion guide from SFGate.
Batch cook and meal prep
The environmental impact of food doesn’t stop when it enters your home. The way you prepare it plays a role, too. Consider batch cooking to save energy (and time) and do your meal prep in advance to avoid impulse buying of convenience foods while your meat stays frozen, or worse, sits in the fridge raw.