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New Federal Dietary Guidelines May Emphasize Sustainability

At the end of this month, you'll have the ability to view the updated federal guidelines for healthy eating. When you read it, you might notice a few changes such as dietary suggestions that reflect not only human health but environmental health, as well. Of course, dietary guidelines are released every five years as new research continues to be revealed. The latest release should focus on sustainability. This is because many studies convey that meat production strongly affects the environment.

Reducing meat consumption is one method for living more sustainably. According to the journal, Climactic Change, livestock global greenhouse gas emissions rose to 51 percent between 1961 and 2010. Moreover, in another study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it shows that beef requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken. This means that its production has five times more greenhouse emissions per calorie. Intriguing data, isn't it? There is also the fact that the standard of living continues to improve in places such as China with a large population. This means that the demand for meat will continue to rise.

Prof. Mark Sutton, lead author of a U.N. Environment Program 2013 study on meat consumption said, “Eat meat, but less often — make it special. Portion size is key. Many portions are too big, more than you want to eat. Think about a change of culture that says, ‘I like the taste, but I don’t need so much of it." The new guidelines may recommend more plant-based foods. Yet, that will not go unchallenged. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association released a statement from Richard Thorpe, a Texas-based doctor and cattle producer. Thorpe declared that he was, “deeply disappointed that the Committee missed this opportunity to positively influence the American diet by blatantly disregarding sound science and removing lean beef from a healthful dietary pattern.” Although increasing demand may indirectly affect meat consumption because it will be too expensive to consume a lot of it for many households.

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