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Leading Medical Journal Cites Meat as Major Harm to Health and Environment

The Lancet, one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world, has gone on record questioning the sustainability and healthfulness of meat in a new op-ed titled “We Need to Talk About Meat.” “What is a healthy amount of red or processed meat?” the editorial board writes. “It’s looking increasingly like the answer, for both the planet and the individual, is very little.”

The piece cites new research on the environmental and health impacts of meat, including a paper published in PLoS One which indicated that “health-related costs directly attributable to the consumption of red and processed meat” will reach $285 billion in the year 2020.

Additionally, they highlight a landmark study published earlier this year in Science that reviewed data from 40,000 farms in 119 countries and found that even the lowest-impact meat causes “much more” environmental impact than the least-sustainably produced plant-based foods.

They note that debate over the sustainability and healthfulness of producing and eating meat is still relatively new to the mainstream but is nonetheless urgent. “Achieving a healthy diet from a sustainable source is a struggle new enough to countries with an abundance of food that it has proven difficult to enact meaningful change,” The Lancet editors write. “The global ecological sustainability of farming habits has not been a major topic of conversation until the last few decades. It’s only now that we’re beginning to have a conversation about the role of meat in both of these debates, and the evidence suggests a reckoning with our habits is long overdue.”

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Courtney Davison

Courtney Davison is Forks Over Knives’ assistant editor. A writer and editor on a wide range of subjects, she co-wrote a nationally syndicated advice column from 2016 to 2018 and co-authored the 2018 book Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice from Dear Annie. Courtney is a longtime vegan and in her free time enjoys trying new recipes and spending quality time with her cat.

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