Popular cooking website Epicurious says it’ll stop posting new beef recipes in an attempt to fight global climate change. Jason Hill, a professor within the department of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the University of Minnesota, joined “CBSN AM” to speak about how what we eat can impact our health and therefore the environment.
- In climate watch, popular cooking website, Epicurious, says that it’ll stop posting new beef recipes in an attempt to fight global climate change. the website made the announcement earlier in the week saying, quote, “our shift is solely about sustainability, about not giving airtime to at least one of the world’s worst climate offenders.” Livestock accounts for nearly 15% of total global greenhouse emission emissions and 41% of these emissions are often traced back to beef. So, Jason Hill, a professor within the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota, is with me now to speak more about how what we eat can impact the environment.
So, thanks for joining us. I really like Epicurious. It’s mostly aspirational. I often don’t cook– cook what they need on the website, but all of them look really, specialized. So, I feel it’s quite a statement that they’re making here.
And I think when people hear cows and global climate change, they believe cows passing gas or burping, but it is so much bigger than that. It’s about the way the land is employed. It’s about the food that they eat. So, you know, are you able to give us a way of what sorts of food are most harmful to the environment and what are those with rock bottom impacts?
JASON HILL: The foods tending to be best for the environment are plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, those kinds of things. Things that tend to be, on average, worse for the environment are animal-based foods. The meat of the animal, also as animal products, like dairy products.
- So, are you able to kind of explain why? Why are animal products especially kind of more egregious when it involves the environment?
JASON HILL: So, one of the large reasons is that animals need to eat themselves and they are very inefficient in converting, say protein, from plant protein to animal protein. for every 20 parts of the protein that a cow eats, as an example, just one part is eaten by us within the meat itself. So, that animals require an outsized land footprint which land footprint is liable for large greenhouse emission emissions.
- All alright, so, if we all decided, look, we’re not getting to eat animal products then. the united kingdom Business Secretary is considering a totally vegan diet so as to assist tackle global climate change. I do know people hear vegan and there are people out there that are getting to start to dry heave because they only can’t imagine not eating any animal products. But would that be effective? what percentage of people would need to cut out animal products entirely to possess an impression on climate change?
JASON HILL: Well, we do not need to cut out animal products completely to possess a serious impact on global climate change. I mean, believe it. If you eat meat seven times every week for dinner, for instance, if you narrow that right down to sixfold every week, you are still not a vegan, or a vegetarian even, but you’ve had a serious impact on reducing greenhouse emissions. So, I’d wish to consider it not such a lot in absolute terms, like vegetarian, vegan, but think more a few plant-based diets. Something that the idea is plants and plant proteins, like legumes, whole grains, then forth, but building on top of that perhaps a touch little bit of meat every now then isn’t getting to be so bad for the environment.
- Now, generally, I feel over the past several years, probably decades, meat consumption has been kind of naturally taking place, but I feel whenever we have this conversation, there’s a priority when it involves jobs. The meat industry may be a big industry. It employs many, many of us. We’re not just talking about the farmers.
And so, I assume my question to you is, is there an alternative? I mean, do we– is that this kind of an either/or situation? I feel the president, in his first address to the joint session of Congress the opposite day, in the week rather, talked about wanting farmers to plant cover crops to scale back CO2. For the people that are concerned about those that are employed within the meat industry, and that they hear people advocating for fewer meat, what does one tell those people that go, hey, less meat might mean fewer jobs?
JASON HILL: Well, we certainly can restructure our agricultural system in a way that gives better health, better environmental benefits, but also many employment opportunities. And so, brooding about ways of manufacturing food more environmentally friendly include cover crops, which isn’t leaving land exposed surely parts of the year. And in fact, it requires people to travel out and plant those cover crops.
And so, brooding about the entire food system and ways to optimize it for health, for the environment, and for the economic benefit are some things that we should always do. which requires both personal decisions that we make in terms of what we eat, also as political decisions about the type of subsidies and incentives that we offer farmers to grow different crops in several ways.