Lifestyle Before Medication

A pharmacist's perspective on health and metabolic disease

Eating less meat: Good for the planet, us or both?

I was asked the other day whether I would eat meat that had been created in a vat probably like this hamburger.

I think my answer is “maybe” as long as several conditions are met – including whether you get the same nutritional value as per real meat (i.e. free-range, pastured and ideally organic) and whether there is no loss to the environment.

However, the question I asked back was why do we need vat grown meat?  Is it from the philosophical view that we shouldn’t kill animals to eat, or because we have to resort to intensive farming practices to produce  sufficient meat to feed our growing population? (After growing up in New Zealand where all beef and lamb is free-range, the concept of a feed-lot is appalling.)


Southland sheep farming – what I saw growing up

I think we could better  manage our farming practices by having a good look at our eating habits.  For example…How much protein do we need anyway?    There are a variety of ranges suggested but a good starting place is the current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.8 g protein per kg body weight.  This may need to be increased if you are quite a serious athlete or decreased in certain conditions,….but for most of us, it is probably about right.  So what does this look like?

For a 60kg woman, this equates to 48g protein per day.    This can easily be achieved with

Breakfast 2 eggs (12g)

Lunch 50g chicken (14g)

Dinner 100g salmon (22g)


This doesn’t even count the other sources of protein such as nuts and seeds, and vegetables such as asparagus and cauliflower.


Most of us easily consume too much protein.  A chicken quarter (thigh and drum) has about 40g protein – nearly all my daily needs.

But does it matter if we eat too much protein overall, or even in one meal?   For example, if we are intermittent fasting, should we eat our daily supply of protein in one meal?

Probably not:  While there is a reasonable amount of debate in this area, ….we can’t store protein like we can fat or carbohydrate (glycogen).  We either have to use it, or it will be converted to a form of carbohydrate – which may increase your insulin levels and the health problems associated with high blood insulin and glucose levels.    There are more recent concerns that excessive protein can stimulate a pathway called mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).  High mTOR levels may increase your chances of developing cancer and/or Alzheimers dementia.

So maybe we should be reducing the amount of meat we eat overall.  This will have several benefits:  Eating smaller portions of meat may mean that we can afford better quality meat   especially pastured raised, rather than intensively farmed, or we can save money just by buying smaller pieces of meat.  It will also be beneficial to our health,  as it will reduce the risk of hyperinsulinaemia and not stimulate the mTOR pathways.    There is also the argument that meat production contributes to greenhouse gasses and climate change.  Reducing the amount of meat we eat isn’t just good for us, but good for the planet.

I won’t go into it today, but we can go even further  with the ecological arguments when we consider what protein we gain from the animal and whether we should eat more “non-muscle meat protein”.  But more on that next time.

As always, what are your thoughts?



Pópulo, H., Lopes, J. M., & Soares, P. (2012). The mTOR Signalling Pathway in Human Cancer. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 13(2), 1886-1918. doi:10.3390/ijms13021886

Tramutola, A., Triplett, J. C., Di Domenico, F., Niedowicz, D. M., Murphy, M. P., Coccia, R., . . . Butterfield, D. A. (2015). Alteration of mTOR signaling occurs early in the progression of Alzheimer disease (AD): analysis of brain from subjects with pre-clinical AD, amnestic mild cognitive impairment and late-stage AD. Journal of Neurochemistry, 133(5), 739-749. doi:10.1111/jnc.13037

One comment on “Eating less meat: Good for the planet, us or both?

  1. Heri
    November 9, 2016

    Animals in industrial farms get too much hormones, antiobiotics, and are too stressed. There’s no good eating that kind of meat. It’s a bit like eating rotten food


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This entry was posted on October 19, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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