Beetroot, potatoes, onions, pears garlic and carrots on a vibrant chopping board

What to eat
Food and the environment

Facts and figures about what we eat

14.5%
of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production (more than all forms of transport)  
50%
of habitable land around the world is used to produce food
45,000
early deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if we ate low meat diets
£42.43
is the average weekly food spend per person in the UK
Over 10 bn
tonnes of food is wasted in the UK annually
8 bn
animals are killed for meat every year in the UK

How does the food we eat affect our environment?

From growing crops to processing, transporting, selling, storing and throwing away food – everything we eat has an impact on the environment and the climate.  

In the UK, agriculture is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, 83% of ammonia air pollution, and 16% of water pollution. More intensive forms of farming are the leading cause of harm to UK farmland wildlife.

Get inspired: great low-meat recipes

Good food should be tasty, healthy and great for the environment. 

We've put together loads of recipes and tips to help you eat better.

Whether you're wanting a less and better meat diet or looking for some new meat- and dairy-free inspiration, we're here to help you cook amazing dishes that won't cost the earth.  

What's the problem with eating meat?

All aspects of food production contribute to climate changing emissions.

But agriculture – and specifically meat and dairy farming – has the greatest impact.

In the UK 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Some 6-7% come directly from raising animals for us to eat. 

Read our policy paper on sustainable diets [PDF].

What is better meat?

Better meat, fish and dairy are:

  • Better for the environment
  • Better for animal welfare
  • Better for your health

So what is the best kind to buy if you want to eat more sustainably? A great first step is simply to steer clear of meat and dairy from high-intensity factory farms, buy local and check for sustainability labelling (that means things like organic, pasture for life or RSPCA assured on meat, and MSC or ASC on fish). 

Eat better on a budget

You might think it's hard to find cheap, nutritious alternatives to tried and tested favourites. But eating healthily and sustainably can actually save you money.

Many more sustainable foods, including beans and pulses, are much cheaper than their meat alternatives. So when or if you do eat meat, you’ll be able to enjoy better quality, better tasting and more sustainable options too.  

How can the government help us eat better?

The government needs to promote the benefits of eating less and better meat.

It should ensure that meals paid for by taxpayers – in places like schools, hospitals and care homes – use less but better meat and dairy.

And that it supports farmers to grow more plant-based protein, while removing subsidies that promote intensive meat production.

Also, it must end the harmful overuse of antibiotics in farming to ensure they remain effective in protecting human and livestock health.

    How can the food industry help us eat better?

    Businesses dealing in food need to make it easier for us to eat better. They should:

    • Increase the range of low- and no-meat products.

    • Ensure that food isn't wasted anywhere along the supply chain.
    • Introduce labelling for grass-fed meat and dairy products.
    • Talk to customers about the benefits of reducing meat and dairy in their diets.

    Some businesses are already making exciting changes to support everyone to eat less and better meat, cut the amount of food they waste and develop new meat-free options - but there is a lot more to do.

    Eating better together: Who we work with

    We're a founding member of Eating Better, an alliance of organisations working together to help everyone to eat less meat and dairy, and more food that’s better for our health and the planet.

    A wide range of organisations are part of the alliance, with backgrounds in health, the environment, consumer affairs, social justice and animal welfare.

    Friends of the Earth also supports the work of the Pesticides Action Network, GM Freeze and Sustain: The Alliance for Food and Farming.