Reducing total protein consumption and integrating more plant-based protein sources into your diet would have a substantial impact on environmental pressures while simultaneously providing healthy nutrition.
In addition to reducing the amount of meat in your diet, it is important to intentionally source humanely-raised meats when you do eat meat. This includes certified humane, organic, and pasture-raised meat products, as well as whole plant foods that are high in protein like beans (pinto, black, kidney), lentils, peas, chickpeas, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts), seeds, and quinoa.
Three Strategies for Cutting Meat Consumption in Half and Eating Wholesome Proteins
1. Choose Certified Humane, Organic, and Pasture-Raised Meat Products
2. Eat Meat Occasionally
3. Eat More Organic and Non-GMO Plant Proteins
What about fish?
In selecting diverse proteins, many consumers seek out fish for its lean protein and high omega-3 fatty acid content. As with meat and poultry products, it is important to source fish carefully. Frequent consumption of fish increases consumer exposure to the environmental contaminants present in the ocean, such as methylmercury or polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). Overconsumption of fish has also contributed to dwindling global fish supplies and harms to marine ecosystems.
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing to include fish as an occasional source of protein:
Avoid farmed fish that are raised in intensive aquaculture systems in cages and pens in the open ocean:
- Ocean-based fish farms contribute to overfishing and a dangerous reduction in global fish supplies.
- Ocean-based facilities have high rates of escapes. Escaped fish threaten wild species and surrounding ecosystems.
- Open-ocean facilities change the behavior and physiology of wild species surrounding these farms.
- Fish waste accumulates in high quantities and pollutes the ocean, spreading disease and pathogens.
- In ocean-based fish farms, large marine predators have been killed by getting trapped in the nets and cages or shot by workers.
- Fish confined in cages store more fat, making them more susceptible to bioaccumulation of fat-seeking pollutants like mercury and PCBs.
When choosing wild-caught fish, make sure that the practices used do not harm other aquatic species and the surrounding ecosystems:
- Avoid fish caught by a bottom trawl. A bottom trawl is a fishing net pulled along the seafloor that disrupts the benthic communities and causes damage to coral.
- Avoid fish caught by dredging. Dredging is the practice of dragging a metal basket along the seafloor that also causes harm to the seafloor ecosystem and results in high levels of by-catch.
- Avoid fish caught by gillnetting. Gillnetting is the practice of leaving a large net suspended in the water that fish swim into accidentally. This often results in unintentional by-catch and can seriously injure or kill other aquatic species.
Further resources for information about sourcing seafood sustainably include the Marine Stewardship Council and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Consumer Guide.