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April 28, 2017, 9:39 a.m. EDT

7 ways dropping meat from your diet can help save the planet, the economy and your budget

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By Brian Kateman

Getty Images/iStockphoto

People cut meat from their diets for many reasons — health, animal welfare, the environment, among others. There is a growing number of individuals who are reducing their intake of animal products to better themselves and the planet. According to a recent survey , 35% of Brits are eating less meat than they did a year ago. This holds true for Americans , too.

The term “reducetarian” celebrates this trend in people choosing to eat fewer animal products. It unites vegans and vegetarians (people who eat less meat, just to such a degree that they eat none at all) with everyone who eats less meat than a typical omnivore. And it replaces static and self-defeating identifiers like “lazy vegan” and “cheating vegetarian” with more positive ones. Reducetarians work to cut down their carnivorous consumption by gradually reducing their meat, egg, and dairy intakes. They play around with Meatless Monday, Vegan Before Six, and Weekday Vegetarianism to see what works best for them.

Here are 7 reasons this flexible and easy approach to eating will help you become a happier, healthier, and richer person:

1. You will lower your grocery bill.

A family of four may spend anywhere from $760 - $1160 a month for groceries. Vegetables, fruits and plant-based protein are some of the cheapest products on the market, not to mention the best return in nutrient value. The average retail price for beef is about $6/lb ($8/lb for sirloin) whereas $1.49 for a pound of black beans . With 15 g of protein and fiber per cup, your wallet and body will thank you. In fact, one study showed that the average vegetarian saves at least $750 per year on his or her grocery bill.

2. You will cut down on your carbon footprint.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture accounts for approximately 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions — that’s more than the entire transportation sector combined. But plant-based foods have a much lower carbon footprint than animal-based foods. That’s why the average vegetarian has half the carbon footprint of a meat eater; and for a vegan, it’s even lower. Cutting down on meat is an easy way to help mitigate climate change.

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3. You will help fight world hunger.

In 2015, world population reached a staggering 7.3 billion and is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030. This increase in mouths to feed creates a rising demand for food. The inefficiencies of feeding plants to raise animals for food instead of feeding these plants directly to people contributes to world hunger . For example, it requires 9 calories of feed for chickens to create 1 calorie from poultry. A decrease in livestock production, as well as a decrease in land to grow crops to feed these animals, will help combat this critical issue.

4. You will help conserve water.

Just one pound of meat requires roughly 2,500 gallons of water - that’s 10 times the amount of water required to grow one pound of grain protein. This would mean that the water used to make one burger is equivalent to the amount of water used when showering for two whole months (assuming a four minute daily shower). It’s no surprise that animal agriculture accounts for 80% to 90 % of U.S. water consumption. With drought-stricken areas on the rise, reducing your consumption of meat can help conserve our precious water.

5. You will be saving farm animals from cruelty.

Factory farmed livestock live in inhumane and cruel conditions. From extremely crowded cages to harming of animals through practices like “de-beaking,” over 95% of the meat that we find in our grocery store comes from these horrible places. Reducing your consumption of animal products will help lessen the demand for them.

6. You will save money on medical bills.

The American Dietetic Association declared that “appropriately planned” reducetarian diets, including vegetarian and vegan diets, will provide you with the nutrition you need to stay healthy as well as aid in prevention of certain diseases. Evidence suggests that following a plant-based diet will lower your risk of heart disease, a leading cause of death in the U.S.d States. Furthermore, reducing your meat consumption may help lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressur e as well as your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes . Given how expensive it is to treat these non-communicable diseases, eating less meat could save you thousands of dollars in health care bills. On a global scale, changing your diet could contribute to saving around $700 million in health care, unpaid informal care and lost working days.

7. You will fuel a growing revolution of start-ups and investment in good food companies.

As the plant-based industry continues to grow, so does its economic value. The Plant-Based Foods Association estimates the industry’s annual revenue is roughly $4.9 billion dollars and is expected to keep growing. More than 2,000 jobs (that pay better than many other jobs ) are added to this sector every year . Supporting plant-based companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat will not only benefit your taste buds, but also the economy.

Brian Kateman is editor of “The Reducetarian Solution: How The Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing The Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and The Planet,” co-founder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing meat consumption to create a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world. He is a TEDx speaker and leading expert on food systems and behavioral change .

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