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Eat less meat and animal products to protect the environment and your health

Europeans currently eat large amounts of meat, dairy products and eggs, exceeding health recommendations for the consumption of saturated fat and red meat. In addition, livestock production in the EU is the driver of around 80% of the losses of nitrogen from agriculture. The nitrogen that is lost to the environment has severe impacts on our soil, water and air, as well as on biodiversity and human health.

A new report published by the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution quantifies how much cutting down meat and dairy in our diets would reduce air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. The report also considers the health benefits of reduced meat and dairy consumption. In addition, the study considers other impacts of reductions in meat and dairy production, for example, by freeing up large areas of farmland for other purposes, such as food production for export or biofuels.

The "Nitrogen on the Table" report, launched during an event at the European Parliament in Brussels last week, suggests that halving the current consumption of meat and dairy within the EU would not only have considerable health benefits, but would also achieve a reduction of around 40% in agricultural nitrogen losses and a 25% to 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The report demonstrates that working towards behavioural change in food consumption is just as important as pursuing low-emission agricultural practices and techniques for improving our environment and our health.