Environmental organisation Greenpeace has published a report calling on consumers to restrict their intake of meat to 300g per week, or 16kg per year, by 2050, which would require a drastic revision of current EU farming legislation.

The comprehensive report ‘Less is more: Reducing meat and dairy for a healthier life and planet’ advocates decreasing global production and consumption of animal products in order to reduce the negative impacts on health and the environment.

“This ambitious goal is a necessity if we are to get to 2050 with a safe climate. Aiming for a safe climate requires transformations in all sectors, including the food-system,” lead author of the report Reyes Tirado told Food Processing Technology.

“In particular, Greenpeace urges public authorities to quickly adopt procurement policies for public canteens that support this model of healthy, plant-based diets with a limited amount of meat and dairy products produced ecologically.”

According to the report, animal products contribute to approximately 60% of food-related emissions, and global food production is responsible for 80% of deforestation.

If the new target was reached, the agriculture sector could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 64% compared to current 2050 bassline trajectories.

“We could significantly reduce meat and milk consumption globally, which would improve human health, decrease environmental impact, help to tackle climate change, and feed more people from much less land – perhaps freeing some land for biodiversity conservation,” said former convening lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Professor Pete Smith in the foreword.

“We need to fundamentally change the way we produce food if we are to feed 9-10 billion people in 2050 without wrecking the planet irreversibly.”

Revising agricultural policy

In order to achieve the 2050 goal, Greenpeace is urging European governments to eliminate subsidies that support the meat and dairy industries and promote organic fruit and vegetable production. It also supports the adoption of policies to reduce public spending on meat products while financially supporting local ecological farmers.

The organisation also promotes transformations in healthy eating and dietary advice towards less meat consumption and to involve environmental and health agencies in the agricultural policy formulation process.

“This one sector is impacting the quality of our air, water and soil, it is changing our climate and impacting public health,” said Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero referring to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). “It is simply too big to leave it to DG Agriculture alone to decide on the future of the CAP.”

Contiero noted that while European nations pay €59bn for CAP each year, the costs of nitrogen pollution from the farming industry alone amounts to €320bn per year.

Tirado mentioned to Food Processing Technology that it is not just the government’s or the producer’s responsibility to reduce meat consumption but consumers also have a role to play: “We all, collectively, can send a strong signal to our governments with our food choices: what we eat is one of the most powerful tools we have to protect our planet, our families and our health.”