Sustainability: Only 300 grams of meat per week: Society for Nutrition halves the recommended amount

We all actually want to eat and drink well.

Sustainability: Only 300 grams of meat per week: Society for Nutrition halves the recommended amount

We all actually want to eat and drink well. Only the question of what this “good” should look like in detail is the subject of passionate debate, especially when it comes to meat. Where vegan or vegetarian associations propagate the “without” model, conservatives like Markus Söder are outraged by “compulsory veganization” – and farmer representatives are outraged by vegetarian breakfasts at the church conference.

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE), which has just presented new nutritional recommendations for Germany at its scientific congress in Kassel, has apparently chosen a pragmatic middle path. The updated advice under the title “Eat and drink well” replaces the DGE’s old “10 rules” for healthy eating. The new recommendations continue the clear trend towards more plants and fewer animals - without completely abandoning them.

“The most important change is an even greater emphasis on more plant-based foods and less meat – and also less dairy products,” says Antje Gahl. The ecotrophologist heads the public relations department of the DGE in Bonn. According to the new rules, three quarters should be plant-based food and only a quarter animal products.

More specifically, this means: a maximum of 300 grams of meat and sausage per week. The DGE previously advised 300 to 600 grams per week. On the one hand, the newly calculated amount is intended to ensure the supply of nutrients such as iron, and on the other hand, it is intended to reduce the risk of heart disease or colon cancer, which, according to observational studies, also occurs with the consumption of "red" meat such as beef, pork, lamb or goat is associated.

Thirdly, the lower quantity also takes into account the fact that meat production, on average, causes significantly more land use, environmental damage and higher amounts of greenhouse gases than the production of lentils, nuts or carrots. For one kilo of meat - even according to conservative estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - an average of three kilos of grain is required.

In the future, the following applies to dairy products: only two instead of three portions a day. For fruit and vegetables, the rough rule of thumb remains “five a day”. However, protein and fiber-rich nuts, beans, peas and lentils will no longer be classified as fruit and vegetables, but will be ennobled with their own recommendation: the DGA now advises eating a handful of nuts every day and legumes once a week.

As a scientific basis, the new rules are based on a new mathematical model in which environmental and climate aspects will have a greater impact: Previously, the DGE rules were primarily about ensuring optimal supplies of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals to be. The new recommendations, on the other hand, place greater emphasis on the goal of minimizing environmental and climate damage through healthy nutrition.

"Health aspects such as disease prevention or the supply of nutrients continue to be in the foreground. But the new recommendations are based on a changed model that takes greater account of sustainability aspects such as greenhouse gas emissions or land use," says Gahl.

Until now, the DGE, as a non-profit organization whose work is carried out by scientists, was not known for any food revolutions. A working group began the scientific research for the now published recommendations in 2016. What is also rather pragmatic is that the new rules are based not least on common German consumption habits - and therefore continue to contain animal foods such as meat or dairy products - albeit less as before.

“We have to take the population with us: Of course you can live particularly sustainably with zero grams of meat per week, but not everyone wants and will live a vegan life,” explains Antje Gahl.

However, the meat reduction represents at least a touch of revolution: According to the Federal Ministry of Food, per capita meat consumption in Germany was around 52 kilos per year in 2022 - i.e. around one kilo per week. From now on, only a third of them are recommended.