China’s new dietary guidelines advise lower meat consumption

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Nutrition Agriculture

Beijing is now encouraging Chinese consumers to reduce their meat and egg intake through new dietary guidelines that are also designed to help the environment.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the recommendations are part of a campaign to combat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases while placing emphasis on food security amid limited production areas.

To stem an alarming increase in obesity and non-communicable diseases, public health officials have set out to moderate the role of meat and dairy in the nation’s diet.

The guidelines advise citizens to eat a maximum of 75g of meat and poultry each day, with a combined limit of 200g meat, poultry, fish and dairy. 

This corresponds to a daily reduction of 100g per day, according to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Aside from nutritionists, environmentalists have also welcomed the guidelines at a time when the land, water and energy required to raise animals is in short supply.

Earlier this year, Oxford researchers published a paper which suggested that a global shift to a more plant-based diet could cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70% depending on the willingness of consumers to eat less meat.

If China’s population were to follow the new guidelines, it could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5% of the global total, according to a report by WildAid, an ecological NGO, quoted by the Washington Post​. 

China’s livestock alone produces nearly 5bn tonnes of waste annually, while its runoff is the biggest source of water pollution in the country. 

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers posits, meat and dairy consumption, if continued at the current rate, “will place enormous burdens on an already challenged domestic food system and have significant ramification on international trade in agriculture​”.

In 2015, China's beef and pork imports alone were valued at US$1.35bn and US$1.2bn respectively.

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