Chapter 13: Flexitarianism: a range of sustainable food styles
People who don’t abstain from meat as a matter of principle may still eat less of it. (Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature, 2011, p. 472). A shift in Western meat consumption patterns could significantly reduce the ecological effects of the food system. The consumption of meat accounts for a large proportion of the ecological footprint of consumers. Therefore reduction of meat consumption is important in making more sustainable food choices. Although the average consumer may not consider meat consumption as a highly relevant sustainability issue, in scholarly thinking the ecological effects and energy-intensiveness of meat consumption and production have been acknowledged for more than 20 years. As a result of the worldwide rising levels of meat consumption and production, experts increasingly express urgent reasons to adjust meat consumption to more sustainable levels. Although discussions on more sustainable food consumption patterns are mainly focused on meat reduction, from a sustainability perspective a transition is needed towards a diet that is less dependent on all types of animal proteins, including dairy, eggs and fish (see Reisch et al. 2013; Tukker et al. 2011; Westhoek et al. 2011). A switch towards less animal-based and more plant-based diets would not only benefit the sustainability of our diets, but also positively affect consumer health (see Van Dooren et al. 2014).
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