Chicken is the most consumed meat in the United States.Chicken is the most consumed meat in the United States.Chicken is the most consumed meat in the United States. (Photo: Wiktory/Shutterstock)

How eating more chicken could save us from environmental ruin

New research says switching from beef to poultry might be the most efficient and earth-friendly way to eat.

Turns out those pleading Chick-Fil-A cows with their misspelled billboard signs might be on to something.

A new study out of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science suggested that reducing beef consumption in the U.S. could drastically reduce the environmental footprint of food production and meet the caloric and protein demands of 40% more people.

In the study, published in Environmental Research Letters, the researchers – Weizmann professors Gidon Eshel, Ron Milo and Alon Shepon – argue that beef, which is the most environmentally costly type of meat, should be replaced with the more "resource-efficient" poultry.

roasted chicken drumsticksChicken production is less environmentally harmful than beef, a new study says. (Photo: Liliya Kandrashevich/Shutterstock)

But what does resource-efficient actually mean? It means you can get more meat out of chicken than beef, and you get it faster, all while using the same amount of resources (feed, costs, staff, etc). Substituting poultry for beef would also result in "vast reductions in demand for pastureland," meaning that producing poultry essentially takes up less space.

"Our purpose here is not to endorse poultry consumption, nor can our results be construed as such," the researchers wrote. "Rather, the results simply illustrate the significant food availability gains associated with the rather modest and tractable dietary shift of substituting beef with less inefficient animal-based alternatives."

The researchers acknowledge that most Americans want to keep meat in their diets and that asking everyone to adopt a fully plant-based lifestyle – which is still the most environmentally efficient diet overall – would be a hard sell. But in their study, the authors suggest that there's really no need to keep eating beef. In addition to the environmental perks, chicken also yields just as much protein as beef, but has fewer calories.

Professor Ron Milo and Alon Shepon of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science.Professors Ron Milo and Alon Shepon of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. (Photo: Weizmann Institute of Science)

“If we changed our diet, we would change the environmental price we pay, with every meal," Shepon, a researcher in the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at Weizmann, said in a statement. "Eating a plant-based diet can both meet our nutritional requirements and save on land use, as well as the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and excess nitrogen from fertilizers into the water supply. These are real costs that we all bear, especially when people eat beef."

Thanks to From The Grapevine's own Israeli Kitchen, there are plenty of options to start, as one fast-food giant calls it, "eat mor chikin." Here are a few recipes to get you started:

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