Why is beef and lamb bad for the environment?
Cows and sheep produce a high amount of methane during their digestion process. How do they do this? Through burping and farting. Yes, a smile probably crept across your face when you read that but what isn’t as funny is the impact that methane has on our environment.

While methane’s lifespan (12 years) is shorter than that of carbon dioxide, once released into the atmosphere it is 86 times more powerful at warming the climate. With an estimated 13.4 million beef cows and heifers in Australia alone, those are a lot of farts and burps affecting our environment.

Why are other environmental organisations not looking at this issue? To date, there has been little to no consideration of the impacts our diets have on the climate. Not in government policy nor worldwide environmental campaigns. There are several reasons why this issue is ignored.

  1. Policy-makers worry about strong public resistance to policy that intrudes on something as personal as eating habits. However, there is a platform from which Governments can act and that is the ‘Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013’ policy, which aims to improve the health of the public. We believe that policies regarding food and climate change should share common goals. Policies that tackle excessive meat consumption should and can be successful.
  2. The cultural significance of meat is something that has halted action in this sphere. Meat is important to people as part of their cultural heritage and identity.
  3. This issue is challenging because our goals conflict with powerful interest groups such as Meat and Livestock Australia. In the USA we have seen the influence these groups have on policy, which fight any curbing of consumption, even in the case of dietary guidelines. Our climate is at stake so we cannot allow the private sector here in Australia to influence policy for profit.
  4. The gap between awareness and action, even among well educated climate activists, poses a large problem. To bridge this gap we aim to make action more relatable to local communities and through leading by example show how individual’s actions can have a great impact.

At Less Meat Less Heat we feel that for what is at stake it is worth tackling these challenges to build a more sustainable future.

Why don’t you advocate a full vegan diet?
The window to avoid runaway climate change is shrinking daily. Our goal is to achieve the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. An entire global population going vegan would have the biggest impact on climate change, but this is unlikely to happen in the short term. By cutting down our consumption of beef and lamb we can avoid reaching two degrees of warming and drastically reduce the costs associated with needing to adapt to a more volatile climate.

There are several excellent organisations that advocate for animal rights. We encourage you to understand the footprint of your food and engage with these organisations to learn more. Together we can work towards a better planet from both a climate and animal rights perspective.

What is a Climatarian diet?
A Climatarian diet focuses on reducing your carbon footprint through the foods you eat. Using your power as a consumer, you can drive down the production of meats most damaging to the climate by reducing your consumption of these foods.

Beef and lamb have the biggest carbon footprint, and a Climatarian diet emphasises the considered and more restricted consumption of these two meat-types.

Visit our Climatarian page to better understand the carbon footprint.

Is dairy Climatarian friendly?
Yes, but like anything, in moderation. The dairy industry has a considerable impact on climate. The livestock sector contributes more to climate change than every vehicle in the transport sector on the planet. From digestion and the storage of manure, to producing feed and clearing forested land to create pasture, rearing livestock produces emissions.
What if I just buy locally-sourced meat (food miles)?
We hear a lot about food miles and eating local to reduce our carbon footprint. Unfortunately, even if our beef comes from down the road it still has an overwhelming carbon footprint. Transport emissions make up less than 5% of total farm-to-plate life-cycle emissions of beef and lamb while over 90% of emissions happen while the animals are still alive. Check out the Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change’ for more details and the breakdown for other types of food.


What does a Climatarian diet encompass?
As Australians, we typically eat far more red meat than is good for us. Consumption of beef and lamb should be limited to either one standard serving per week (65g as per Australian dietary guidelines) or one large serving a month, such as a steak or a roast (~300g).

To start, we recommend adding more plant-based options in place of beef and lamb and switching to healthier, low-carbon footprint options such as pork or chicken. Once you are comfortable with this arrangement, consider cutting beef and lamb out of your diet altogether and only indulging on truly special occasions, such as a Christmas roast. You might also try limiting the amount of cheese you eat, as this has the biggest carbon footprint of all dairy products.

How do I ensure that I consume enough protein for my health?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating healthy protein sources like fish, chicken, beans or nuts in place of red meat can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death. We live in a protein-oriented culture, however, most Australians eat far more protein than they actually need and deficiencies are extremely rare.

It is recommended that 15 to 25 percent of total daily energy intake is from protein sources. Red meat is certainly not the only source of protein and can have a high saturated fat content. Other animal products that have lower carbon footprints and are also high in protein are chicken, pork, fish, egg and dairy.

Plant-based protein sources are abundant and even better for the environment as they require less energy to produce. Nuts and seeds can easily be added to breakfast cereal, salads, or stir-fry, and are a great snack. Beans and legumes like soy, lentils and chickpeas are extremely versatile and can be incorporated into most meals. Grains such as oats, brown rice, wholegrain pasta and bread all have protein in them too.

The nutritional value of a protein is measured by the quantity of essential amino acids that it contains. Soy and quinoa are the only plant proteins that contain all essential amino acids. So it is best to pair two different plant protein sources when eating a plant-based meal. For example a meal containing cereals and legumes, such as baked beans on wholegrain toast, provides all the essential amino acids found in a typical meat dish.

Look out for recipes and suggestions on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Will I get enough iron without eating red meat?
This is often the first question many people ask vegetarians. Since becoming a Climatarian means eating less red meat and more veggies, we anticipate this question is at the tip of your tongue.

Iron is used to transport oxygen in the blood. There are two types of iron: haem iron and non-haem iron, with the latter being found in plant-based foods such as dried beans, lentils, fortified cereals and grains. A healthy body absorbs 10 percent of iron consumed from a vegetarian diet. The recommended overall intake of iron for the average male is 8mg and 18mg for the average female to stay healthy. The most significant influence on iron absorption is actually how much you already have stored in your body.

Certain foods like the vitamin C in oranges, lemons and citrus fruit do help with iron absorption. Cooking foods like tomatoes and broccoli also makes it easier for the body to absorb the iron in them.

Some foods can decrease your chances of absorbing iron efficiently. For example, the tannins in tea, coffee and wine reduce iron absorption.

If you are worried about your iron, consult your doctor and take a supplement as an easy and effective way to ensure you are receiving enough iron. Some easy tips to adopt can be drinking hot water and lemon after dinner instead of tea. Treat yourself to a delicious juice or smoothie, and sneak some kale and orange juice in there. Cook tomatoes in the pan for a fresh pasta sauce.  Here’s a great article from our friends at Health Ambition with some further tips and advice to help you maintain healthy iron levels. Best of all, dark chocolate has iron in it. Yay!

Look out for recipes and suggestions on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

How do I stay full from plant-based food?
Eating a plate of broccoli is not going to keep you satisfied when running around living your life. There are certain types of plant-based foods which really fill you up, including: lentils, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and avocados. Falafel, hummus, brown rice and tofu stir-fry also provide a variety of filling options. Adding an egg or a suitable portion of cheese or dairy in an accompanying meal can keep you full up.

Follow our Facebook and Instagram pages to get more tips and suggestions for filling Climatarian recipes and ideas.

Impact on Farming

What about the livestock farmers and the towns that their industry supports?
Shifting to a Climatarian diet will not have a dramatic short-term effect on Australian farmers. As previously mentioned, 60% of Australia’s meat production is shipped overseas with a growing demand. As the LMLH campaign spreads to these export markets and successfully drives down the demand for high carbon meat, initiatives based on the model espoused by Earthworkers Cooperative will become significant in the transition towards a sustainable form of employment for affected farmers and towns.</span?
What about the negative-carbon practice of holistic management, or rotational intense grazing proposed by Allan Savoury?
Livestock grazing causes ecological degradation, losses in plant and animal biodiversity and carbon storage. Allan Savory’s 2013 TED talk offered Holistic Management (HM) as a solution to the desertification of land and reversing climate change.

Holistic Management: Misinformation on the Science of Grazed Ecosystems is a report into the efficacy of these HM principles. It finds that Allen Savory’s HM principles of intensive grazing and trampling are in the end detrimental to plants and their productivity, as well as soils, water storage, while still contributing to greenhouse gas emissions (given off by concentrated herds of cattle and sheep). These stresses far outweigh the capacity of grasslands to store the carbon emitted each year. This has been further confirmed by a more recent review of the published literature by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, titled ‘Holistic management – a critical review of Allan Savory’s grazing method‘.

What about beef exports?
According to Meat & Livestock Australia, there are 13.4 million beef cows and heifers in Australia. A considerable 60% of the Australian red meat production is shipped overseas, with 4.7% as live exports– a demand that is continuously increasing.

One would believe GHG emissions from transporting the meat would be considerably high, right? But a staggering 90.3% of GHG emissions happen on the farm here at home, due to natural processes associated with cattle consuming postures.

Consequently, Less Meat Less Heat believes that the beef export issue is not within the scope of Less Meat Less Heat Australia. It will be in the scope of a global expansion of the Less Meat Less Heat campaign. We believe that to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from livestock we need to start confronting the challenges and social behaviour on our home turf first.

If your question was not answered here please peruse the FAQ page for The Climatarian Challenge.

As Seen On