Sustainability of Meat-Based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):660S-663S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/78.3.660S.

Abstract

Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people live primarily on a meat-based diet, while an estimated 4 billion live primarily on a plant-based diet. The US food production system uses about 50% of the total US land area, 80% of the fresh water, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country. The heavy dependence on fossil energy suggests that the US food system, whether meat-based or plant-based, is not sustainable. The use of land and energy resources devoted to an average meat-based diet compared with a lactoovovegetarian (plant-based) diet is analyzed in this report. In both diets, the daily quantity of calories consumed are kept constant at about 3533 kcal per person. The meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than the lactoovovegetarian diet. In this limited sense, the lactoovovegetarian diet is more sustainable than the average American meat-based diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet* / classification
  • Diet* / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet* / trends
  • Diet, Vegetarian / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food Supply / economics
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Meat*
  • Population Growth*
  • United States