The United Nations (UN) scientists warn that billions of people in poorer countries have little access to meat products, and should be allowed to eat more animal protein. However, in order to protect the environment, this increased consumption of meat products poor countries must come at the expense of meat consumption in rich countries, the UN urges.
"There is a food chain risk," said Professor Mark Sutton, who noted that the recent issues of horse meat labelled as beef products who a ‘dark side’ to meat trade in which people trade undocumented livestock and mislabelled cheap ready meals.
"Now is a good time to talk to people about this,” said Sutton who is lead author of a UN Environment Programme (Unep) study, and also coined the term ‘demitarian’ as a new way to think about cutting meat consumption.
“Eat meat, but less often — make it special,” is the message that Sutton suggested should be pushed to more consumers, while speaking to UK newspaper the Guardian. “Portion size is key.”
Sutton and his team said eating smaller portions, or having meat every other day, would also help slash pollution.
Leading the way…
Europeans currently eat 35% more protein than recommended by the World Health Organisation, while Americans over consume protein to the tune of 58%, said Sutton, adding that most of this extra protein comes from meat.
Meanwhile regions such as Asia, and particularly, China, are increasingly eating meat as their economies develop, he noted.
As a result, Sutton claims that the West needs to ‘set an example’ to help slow the world's growing reliance on meat.
“To aim towards eating half of the amount of meat we are currently eating is a good starting point,” he said. “We should aim to be demitarians - eating half the meat we have typically been eating."
Better supply chain
Sutton added that such a switch could also reduce the risk of a repeat of the current horsemeat scandal – which has been exaggerated by complex and long trans-continental supply chains.
The UN researcher encouraged a more local supply chain which would make it easier to trace where meat came from as well as reducing pollution.
"If we eat meat less often, we might go for a higher quality product when we do,” he suggested.