With a new U.S. president who has said climate change is a hoax, many of us are looking for individual actions we can take to lower greenhouse gas emissions. One easy solution: Cut back on meat.

As my regular readers know, most of the market analysts and food company executives I’ve spoken to in recent years note the growth in people eating a so-called flexitarian, reducetarian or veganish diet. These aren’t vegans – or even vegetarians – but people eating a significant amount of vegan and plant-based food alongside smaller amounts of meat and dairy.

Federal statistics show meat and dairy consumption is down in recent years, but we haven’t seen a corresponding increase in vegetarians or vegans. Instead, more people are eating less meat.

At the same time, we’re seeing a rise in groups connecting climate change to meat consumption and urging people to cut back. One such organization is the 2-year-old Reducetarian Foundation in New York City. On its website it states: “The biggest intervention you can make toward reducing your carbon footprint is not to abandon your car, but to eat fewer animal products.”

President and co-founder Brian Kateman told me by phone that more people cutting down on meat and dairy is a result of two trends converging.

“People are becoming more aware that there is an incredible link between animal agriculture and environmental degradation,” Kateman said. “In addition to the environmental motivation, it’s actually getting easier for people to reduce their animal consumption.”


Kateman said his organization aims “to make plant-based eating mainstream.” While the term “plant-based” can be synonymous with vegan or vegetarian, it also means eating mostly plants alongside small quantities of animal products.

“Plant-based foods are not just for vegans,” Kateman said. “They’re for everyone to enjoy.”

The organization will publish a book in April, host a summit in May and plans a documentary that will explore the profound impact reduction can have, particularly among people unlikely to go completely vegetarian.

For example, Kateman said that if he could get his dad (who eats a standard 250 pounds of meat a year) to cut back by 15 percent, he’d help reduce overall meat consumption by about 37 pounds. If, instead, he persuaded a friend who has already cut back to five pounds of meat a year to become a vegetarian, he’d only help reduce consumption by five pounds.

With limited resources and a desire to have the greatest impact, the Reducetarian Foundation is targeting the dads and those who eat like them. The organization aims to nudge Americans toward a climate-friendly way of eating and to celebrate the success of reduction.

“We need to support people who have already made a great step,” Kateman said. “But not get so caught up in the purity or perfection realm.”


Another organization, the nonprofit Good Food Institute in Washington, D.C., is urging restaurants and food producers to offer more and better meat alternatives.

Emily Byrd, communications manager, said the institute works to advance “plant-based and clean meat, which is 100 percent real meat grown directly from animal cells without the need for factory farming and slaughter.” Working in product research, development and marketing, the institute’s goal is to make “the sustainable and humane choice the default choice.”

“There is no other single action people can take to address climate change in their daily lives that is more impactful than switching to a plant-based diet,” Byrd said. “Now that people are becoming more motivated by environmental concerns, it’s critical that food companies make climate-friendly foods accessible and affordable.”

Byrd adds that most people still base their food choices on “taste, price and convenience.” That’s why the Good Food Institute wants plant-based foods to be indistinguishable in those three ways from their animal-based counterparts.

Here in Maine, one organization working to get people to connect meat and climate change is the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Last summer, the group hosted a sold-out Taste for Change party in downtown Portland to highlight eating mostly plants. They’ll host another this coming summer.

“Climate change has become an issue that has come to the forefront of so many people’s thinking,” said Karen D’Andrea, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine. “It’s sort of like ‘The Issue.’ It resonates with people, they understand it, and they know it’s going to affect them. So they feel compelled to do something about it.”


While many of us want to do something, D’Andrea pointed out “not all of us can afford to put solar panels on our house. Not all of us can afford to buy a Prius. Eating less meat is one of those things that is pretty easy to do, and let’s face it, it’s money-saving.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:


Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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