How to transition to reduced-meat diets that benefit people and the planet

Niki A. Rust*, Lucy Ridding, Caroline Ward, Beth Clark, Laura Kehoe, Manoj Dora, Mark J. Whittingham, Philip McGowan, Abhishek Chaudhary, Christian J. Reynolds, Chet Trivedy, Nicola West

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Overwhelming evidence shows that overconsumption of meat is bad for human and environmental health and that moving towards a more plant-based diet is more sustainable. For instance, replacing beef with beans in the US could free up 42% of US cropland and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 334 mmt, accomplishing 75% of the 2020 carbon reduction target. We summarise the evidence on how overconsumption of meat affects social, environmental and economic sustainability. We highlight the social, environmental and economic effectiveness of a range of dietary interventions that have been tested to date. Because meat eating is embedded within complex cultural, economic, and political systems, dietary shifts to reduce overconsumption are unlikely to happen quickly and a suite of sustained, context-specific interventions is likely to work better than brief, one-dimensional approaches. We conclude with key actions needed by global leaders in politics, industry and the health sector that could help aide this dietary transformation to benefit people and the planet.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137208
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date8 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Behaviour change
  • Carbon emissions
  • Healthy diets
  • Meat overconsumption
  • Planetary health
  • Sustainable diets

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