It's approaching a year since a landmark global climate deal was reached at the COP21 summit in Paris. But to this day, the failure to specifically mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture as part of that agreement is palpable.
In March this year, researchers at the Oxford Martin School warned that growing food for the world's multiplying population is likely to send greenhouse gas emissions over the safety threshold unless more is done to cut meat consumption.
Their study found that shifting to a vegetarian diet or simply cutting down meat consumption within accepted health guidelines would have a significantly positive environmental effect. By simply adhering to health guidelines on meat consumption, the researchers said global food related emissions would be cut by nearly a third by 2050.
It's clear that a lot more could be done to educate people on how simple lifestyle changes could not only save the planet, but also improve our health. Whilst the Department of Health advises people who eat a lot of red and processed meat (more than 90 grams cooked weight) cut down to 70 grams, it also emphasises that red meat can form part of a healthy diet.
However, despite the benefits of a balanced diet with a reduced meat intake for our health and the health of the planet, we don't seem to be geared up as a society to deal with the concept of moderate eating or simply cutting down.
For example, if you say you're vegetarian, it's clear you don't eat meat. If you're vegan, people know you don't eat meat or dairy. But if you fall into the camp of actively consuming less meat because you're concerned about food sustainability and your health, there's no label for this. How would you go about explaining this at a dinner party?
As a society we don't yet seem to recognise the middle ground between being a 'meat eater' and vegetarian. If you try explaining that you simply eat a 'low meat diet' you end up sounding like a hypocritical vegetarian.
However, change could be afoot as a new study* has found that Millennials are far more in tune with the concept of moderation than older people and they could hold the key for creating a more sustainable future in which meat consumption is reduced and so are carbon emissions.
To many young people, it's simply not socially acceptable to eat meat to excess without thinking about the impact on our health or to the environment. The study found that over one-quarter of 18 to 24 year olds (28%) will have a diet that is 'mostly meat free' by the year 2025. It even found that almost one in five people in the same age bracket (18%) wouldn't go on a date with someone who eats meat at every meal.
Furthermore, almost half 16 to 19 year olds (48%) think that a meat free diet, or one in which we eat less but better quality meat, is better for the environment and our health.
* The study was produced by Plate for the Planet which is a collaboration of high profile environmental organisations such as the Eating Better Alliance, the Carbon Trust, the Food Ethics Council and Friends of the Earth. We are on a unified mission to highlight the role eating meat plays in environmental sustainability.
These figures indicate that the so-called 'Generation Moderation' will power a new way of consuming in the future as young people embrace a more moderate way of eating that is actually turning into a trend; a trend that doesn't seem to need a label.
For more information on the Plate for the Planet report and the collaboration, visit the website.
*Study based on a survey by ICM Unlimited of 2,064 people on behalf of Plate for the Planet.Suggest a correction