How Much Meat Should a Climate Change-Wary Flexitarian Eat?

Limiting your meat consumption is good for the planet and your waistline, but what's the proper serving?

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There are plenty of reasons not to eat meat - animal rights, health, the environment - but not everyone can make the leap to full-fledged vegetarian. If we all limited our meat consumption each day by adopting a flexitarian diet, though, we could have our prime rib, and our planet too.

But surely, it's not good flexitarian behavior to abstain from meat for breakfast and lunch, and then eat a giant steak for dinner. In Mike Tidwell's article for Audubon Magazine about how he went from a barbecue-loving Southerner to a strict climate change vegetarian, he figured out the stats for how much meat a flexitarian should eat.

We could also, as a nation, just eat a lot less meat as an alternative to full vegetarianism. Anthony McMichael, a leading Australia-based expert on climate change and health issues, has crunched the numbers. He estimates that per capita daily meat consumption would need to drop from about 12 ounces per day in America to 3.1 ounces (with less than half of it red meat) in order to protect the climate.

What does 3.1 ounces look like?  It's about the size of a deck of cards. It's slightly less than a Quarter Pounder (which wouldn't work, being entirely, rather than half, red meat). It's also easier to pull off if meat is used as a side, rather than as a main dish - or if the meat is sliced and spread throughout a dish, like stir-fry. To some people, it might sound like torture.

One of those people is Tidwell - who decided it would be better to be a full vegetarian than to have to limit himself. But for others, a little bit of meat is better than none at all.


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