Austria is among the leading countries in Europe when it comes to the consumption of meat and meat products – which is neither beneficial for the environment nor for our health. Switching to a more environmentally friendly diet AND still enjoying your food is really easier than you might think.
On average, Austrians eat 63kg of meat every year. This is three times the volume recommended by the Ministry of Health. Excessive consumption can cause overweight, cardiovascular problems, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
Deforestation in the rain forest
The global hunger for meat has its impact on the environment. Greenhouse gases are emitted all along the value production chain, which pours fuel on the climate crisis. The use of resources is massive, especially for the production of animal feed.
Vast surface areas of rain forest are destroyed every year in countries like Brazil and Argentina to facilitate the cultivation of soy. This furthers species extinction and cuts into the reservoirs of carbon dioxide and providers of oxygen.
“The fact that we are destroying our livelihood for the sake of the mass production of meat – which is unhealthy for us anyway – is a disaster,” says Helene Glatter-Götz, food expert with WWF Austria. “And what’s more, the farm animals in this mass production that eat the feed are also treated inhumanely from birth.”
Less and better
WWF Austria recommends: if you do not want to drop meat and sausage from your diet, you should eat less, but better meat. Reduced levels of consumption would lead to reduced mass production, a slowdown in the climate crisis, and the conservation of resources. Besides, meat is an expensive item in the diet. Less meat also means savings for the household budget.
A recent WWF study shows that if an average family switches to a healthy diet, i.e. more fruit and vegetables, less meat and soft drinks, it can afford to buy 70% of its food organic.
But what does better meat mean? Quality beats quantity. This mainly means organically produced meat. That is how you can be sure that no animal feed has been used that harms the rainforest or that has been genetically modified. Also, the breeding standards are higher.
WWF meat guide as help
Meat production as such has a large environmental footprint, but it also depends very much on what is produced where and how. Therefore, WWF Austria has published a meat guide that rates the environmental effects of various production methods by farm animal. It compares organic and conventional production in Austria, Germany, and other EU countries and points out plant-based alternatives alongside beef, pork, and chicken.
The guide describes the various effects on climate and biodiversity, the amount of nutrient input into soil and water, the administration of antibiotics, and the well-being of the animal during breeding. The guide is meant to create transparency for the consumers and help in decision-making. It also targets producers who want to improve certain criteria as well as decisionmakers in retail, who want to adjust their inventory.
Alternatives to schnitzel et al.
The good news: there is an almost inexhaustible number of ways to cut meat from the diet and still ensure a sufficient caloric intake. And they are tasty to boot: vegetables like aubergines, peppers; legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, or chickpeas; mushrooms, tofu, and seitan. Chickpeas have a particularly high protein content. There is a vast array of different recipes for you to sample!
Especially now during BBQ season, meat tops the shopping list. But there are alternatives. Have you ever tried halloumi or vegetable skewers? Stuffed courgettes, seitan or plant-based sausages – there are no limits. Supermarkets have really stepped up their game in this department.
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