The Benefits of Eating Less Meat

Reducing meat consumption can have numerous benefits on human health, the environment, and animals. Find out how to take charge of your diet today.

vegetable garden

Explainer Diet Health

Words by

Meat has long played a starring role in the diets of the global north. Our holidays often feature a large ham or a whole turkey placed front and center of our table. The cultural obsession with meat has even led to the turducken, a dish composed of a chicken carcass stuffed inside of a duck carcass which is then stuffed into a turkey and cooked. Our breakfasts are often considered incomplete without bacon dripping in grease. Yet choosing to consume meat with every meal has serious repercussions for the environment and our health that should make us reconsider how many animals we want to stuff inside each other or how often we want to consume bacon with our pancakes. 

Is Eating Less Meat Good for You?

To answer specific questions about your diet and situation, the best course of action is to consult a medical professional such as your primary care physician or a nutritionist. However, there are several serious health and environmental concerns associated with meat consumption that we should be aware of when choosing the meals we eat.

On the health front, consuming large amounts of meat has been associated with heart disease. When it comes to the environment, animal agriculture is one of the drivers behind deforestation and pollution. 

What Are the Benefits of Eating Less Meat?

There are a number of benefits associated with a reduction in meat consumption. They range from animal welfare to reducing pollution and improving aspects of personal health. When taken collectively, they make a strong case for eating less meat. 


Most meat is produced by intensive agriculture, using animals that are housed on factory farms. The environmental implications of these methods of production are serious and long-lasting. 


In order to produce meat, large tracts of land are cleared of trees, other flora, and wild animals. The cleared land is then used either to grow corn and other grains to be fed to animals on factory farms or as feedlots where cattle intended to be eaten as steaks will be housed prior to slaughter. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Housing thousands of animals in concentrated conditions leads to a massive release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Reports have suggested that up to 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture (including meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products). 

Land Usage

Despite using most of the land appropriate for agricultural use globally, animal agriculture only contributes 18 percent of the world’s calories and less than 40 percent of the protein produced. The vast amount of land used for animal agriculture is responsible for large losses in water availability, soil health, and biodiversity. 

Water Pollution

Unsurprisingly, our oceans, streams, rivers, and other bodies of water are not exempt from being negatively impacted by meat production. Industrial fishing, fish farming, and the farming of animals on land all contribute to the damage dealt to the waters. Fish farming in large sea pens introduces pests and pesticides into neighboring environments harming native fishes. Fishing for wild-caught species frequently results in the capture of bycatch—any animal that is not the intended target. Impacted species include dolphins, sharks, and endangered turtles. Farming of land animals such as cattle, chickens, and pigs results in runoff that contributes to ocean dead zones and increases the severity of algal blooms. 

Heart Disease

Meat consumption, especially red meat consumption, has been tied to an increase in risk for heart disease. In fact, a recent study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that increased consumption of processed meat (sausage, bacon, etc.) by just 5 grams per day resulted in an 18 percent increase in the risk of developing heart disease. A 50 gram per day increase in unprocessed meat consumption (lamb, beef, etc.) resulted in a 9 percent increase in coronary heart disease risk. 

High Blood Pressure

Red meat, such as beef, lamb, pork, etc., can raise blood pressure. Those that suffer from high blood pressure are frequently advised to avoid red and processed meats to prevent the condition from flaring up or worsening. 

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol can only come from animal products because plants do not contain cholesterol. As a result, eating a large number of animal products such as meat can lead to high cholesterol, whereas eating plant-based foods does not raise this risk. Adopting a plant-based diet has been associated with a decrease in cholesterol and may be beneficial for those who suffer from persistent high cholesterol. 

Many Cancers

Those concerned about developing cancer could consider talking about reducing their meat consumption with their doctor. One review of 90 other studies found that eating a vegetarian diet resulted in an 8 percent decrease in cancer incidence while adopting a fully vegan, plant-based diet led to a 15 percent decrease in cancer incidence. Regularly eating processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon has been associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer


Reducing meat consumption can also help combat obesity. One study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that meat consumption was positively correlated with obesity. In other words, the more meat you consume, the greater your likelihood of also experiencing obesity. 

Save Money

Researchers have also found that the cost of eating plant-based meals is lower than meals containing meat. One analysis discovered that the average meal containing meat cost $2.36 per person whereas plant-based meals cost $1.41 per person. The high cost that is frequently associated with plant-based eating is due to meat alternatives such as nuggets and Beyond burgers that cost a premium. As these products get more popular, their price is going down. 


Consuming large amounts of meat may significantly increase the risk of experiencing a stroke. One study found that men who ate two or more servings of red meat a day had a 28 percent higher risk of having a stroke than those who ate one-third or less of a serving a day. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Reducing meat consumption may also help to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Choosing to reduce meat consumption may even be a key step in managing or potentially reversing Type 2 diabetes. 

Benefits of Not Eating Meat for a Day

Choosing not to consume meat for even a day can have a profound impact on the environment. One quarter-pound burger requires 425 gallons of water to produce, enough to fill 10 bathtubs. The production of the same burger also requires the same amount of energy that it takes to power an iPhone for 6 months. 

Benefits of Not Eating Meat for a Week

One firsthand account of cutting out meat for a week describes having more energy in the mornings and throughout the day. After only a few days this writer found that their concentration levels went up, food cost less, there was no need to rest after eating a meal, and their sleep quality improved. 

Benefits of Not Eating Meat for a Month

The benefits of not eating meat for a month are significant for animals and the environment. Estimates suggest that not eating meat or animal products for one month could save the lives of up to 30 animals. Taking this step could also prevent the release of 620 pounds of carbon dioxide, save 913 square feet of land from being deforested, and conserve 33,481 gallons of water. 

The benefits of not eating meat for a month are significant for animals and the environment. Estimates suggest that not eating meat or animal products for one month could save the lives of up to 30 animals. Taking this step could also prevent the release of 620 pounds of carbon dioxide, save 913 square feet of land from being deforested, and conserve 33,481 gallons of water. 

Benefits of Not Eating Meat Anymore

Choosing to transition completely to a plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce your environmental footprint while preventing the suffering of hundreds of animals and potentially improving your health. By deciding not to eat meat we are reducing our direct contribution to water and air pollution, reducing our risk of cancer and heart disease, and above all taking a step toward a future in which animals do not need to suffer to feed us. 

Are All Plant-Based Diets Healthy?

The healthiest plant-based diet is one that chooses whole foods over processed substitutes. Such a diet can help manage a variety of diseases, reduces the likelihood of developing certain ailments, and requires the least amount of resources for processing on the way to your plate. 

How to Eat Less Meat

Transitioning to a diet containing less meat may seem daunting. Many of us are raised on meals that are based on meat. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a wide variety of guides available to help make the transition away from meat-centered eating a reality in our lives. Choosing to take the first step away from a meat-heavy lifestyle today could lead to a healthier, greener tomorrow. 

What’s Next

Consuming meat has become associated with many cultures in the global north, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Reducing our meat consumption can have numerous benefits for ourselves, our world, and the animals with which we share it. Choosing to eat more plant-based foods instead of having meat at the center of our plates creates the opportunity to explore other cuisines and taste new dishes, or to adapt familiar favorites to better align with a more ethical and environmentally responsible lifestyle.

Support Us

Independent Journalism Needs You

Donate » -opens in new tab. Donate via PayPal More options »