The Chinese government has issued a new set of dietary guidelines which encourage its citizens to reduce their consumption of meat and eggs, a move which could not only improve public health in China but also improve the environment.
The announcement, issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, is part of a campaign to combat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. As rising incomes lead to an increase in the consumption of meat and dairy products, the incidence of these non-communicable diseases is expected to skyrocket.
The guidelines call for a daily 75 gram upper limit on meat and poultry consumption and a combined 200 gram daily limit for meat, poultry, fish and dairy. At present, the UN’s Food and Agriculture organisation estimates that Chinese consumption of meat and dairy products averages more than 300 grams per day.
Although still not at Western levels of decadence, the percentage of Chinese children who are overweight or obese has risen from 5 percent to 20 percent in just one generation. To stem this alarming increase, public health officials are looking to moderate the role of meat and dairy in the Chinese diet.
A boy struggles while doing a sit-up at a summer camp to tackle child obesity.
But the benefits of this announcement might not be confined to the sphere of public health. Environmentalists have also welcomed the move, highlighting the huge amounts of land, water and energy required to raise animals.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Oxford published a paper which suggested that a global shift to a more plant-based diet could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by between 29 percent to 70 percent depending on how willing people were to shun meat.
The Washington Post claims that an upcoming report by an organization called WildAid estimates that if the Chinese population followed the new guidelines, it could cut greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to 1.5 percent of the global total.
Of course, the global meat industry stands to lose out big time if the Chinese don’t continue, as they have done for the past couple of decades, to increase their intake of meat. In 2015, China’s imports of beef and pork were valued at $1.35 billion and $1.2 billion respectively.
[Image via China Daily]