Industry Analysis

What are the Benefits and Barriers to a Meat-Free Diet?


In a study published by Cancer Epidemiology, meat-free diets reduce the incidence of all types of cancer in a risk-free population. A meta-analysis published in June 2015 found out that vegetarian diets have considerable effects on reducing weight than non-vegetarian diets.

Benefits of Maintaining a Meat-Free Diet to People’s Health

  • For the past three decades in the US, research has surfaced evidence that meat-free diets may improve people’s long-term health. In December 2013, a study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to the study, people who ate a meat-free diet had the lowest average Body Mass Index (BMI) while meat-eaters had the highest BMIs.
  • People with the highest BMIs (above 30) tend to be obese, and this puts them at a higher risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diverticulitis, heart disease, and other diseases.
  • According to a study by JAMA Internal Medicine, meat-free diets lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the United States. However, a previous study on the UK population by EPIC-Oxford found out that “the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.”
  • An Adventist Health Study conducted in the United States and Canada found out that meat-free diets are associated with reduced all-cause mortality and “some reductions in cause-specific mortality.” According to the Adventist study, other previous studies have found that the following foods are associated with decreased mortality: “nuts, fruit, cereal fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), ω-3PUFAs, green salad, Mediterranean dietary patterns, healthy or prudent dietary patterns, plant-based diet scores, plant-based low-carbohydrate diets, and vegetarian diets.”
  • In a study published by Cancer Epidemiology, meat-free diets reduce the incidence of all types of cancer in a risk-free population.
  • A meta-analysis published in June 2015 found out that vegetarian diets have considerable effects on reducing weight than non-vegetarian diets.
  • According to another meta-analysis and systemic review of randomized controlled trials, there’s evidence that a meat-free diet “effectively lowers blood concentrations of total cholesterol, low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol, high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol, and non–high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol.”

Benefits of Maintaining a Meat-Free Diet on the Planet/Environment

1. Reduced Global Warming

  • According to a report from EarthSave, one of the most effective tools human beings have against global warming is vegetarianism. According to the report, environmentalists are making a serious miscalculation by primarily focusing on reducing C02 emissions as a way to combat global warming but failing to advocate for a meat-free diet.
  • The report author posits that non-CO2 sources are responsible for virtually all the greenhouse emissions. The most outstanding of these sources is Methane, produced from animal agriculture.
  • A shift away from food sources that emit Methane is a better and more effective solution to global warming, as opposed to reducing CO2 emissions.
  • According to the Vegetarian Society, eating a vegetarian diet translates to two and a half times less CO2 emission that a non-vegetarian diet.
  • Besides, by sticking to a meat-free diet for a year, one could save the same amount of emissions by keeping a small car off the road for six months.

2. Saves Water

3. Reduced Water Bodies Pollution

  • In the United States and the UK, and everywhere in the world, water bodies are significantly polluted by animal waste, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers, and the pesticides used to spray feed crops.
  • In the United States, domestic animals produce 130 times more waste than the entire population. Due to the lack of proper sewage treatment systems in the farms, most of this excrement ends up in waterways, thus polluting them.

4. Reduced Ecological Footprint

Benefits of Maintaining a Meat-Free Diet on Animals

1. Less Harm to Animals

  • According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, if just one person were to switch to a meat-free diet, over 100 animals can be saved every year from the cruelty of the meat industry.
  • Proponents of a world free of animal cruelty believe that if people switched to plant-based diets, the needless suffering and death of innumerable animals would be alleviated.
  • According to Happy Cow, more than 100 billion animals are killed every year for meat, and the average meat-eater in the United States is responsible for the deaths of 90 animals every year.

Barriers to Eating Meat-Free Diets

1. Meat Consumption is a Learned Habit That’s Difficult to Break

  • According to a study, one barrier to eating a meat-free diet is the influence of habitual meat-eating that makes it challenging for individuals to make a shift to meat-free diets.
  • Consumption of meat is a learned habit that is supported by the portrayal of meat and dairy products as “healthy, affordable, unconnected to negative distant (in time, space, and emotion) outcomes, and enjoyable.”

2. Meat Consumption as a Cultural Norm

  • Some people who eat meat-based diets do so as a cultural norm, rather than a choice.

3. Nutritional and Healthy Beliefs

  • One pertinent barrier to the adoption of meat-free diets is the widespread belief that meat is a vital component of a healthy diet and that meat-free diets are nutritionally deficient.
  • Several studies have been conducted to this effect, and some of the findings include:
  • A study on meat consumers in the United States established that the greatest barrier to eating meat-free was the concern of lack of protein and other nutritional deficiencies.

4. Environmental Beliefs

5. Hedonism/The Joy of Eating Meat

  • Another barrier to eating meat-free diets is the pleasure people get from eating meat. The taste of meat and the ensuing feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment when eating meat make people reluctant to choose a meat-free diet.
  • This barrier continues to exist despite the knowledge of the health dangers of meat and the health benefits of plant-based diets.

Other Barriers

  • Other barriers to eating meat-free include convenience and self-efficacy, food neophobia, attachment to meat, and masculinity beliefs.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

Insights and Trends – Optometry: U.K.

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