In 2016, red meat and poultry consumption in America averaged out to about 130 pounds per person per year.
The methane given off by beef and dairy animals, plus the additional energy required to feed animals, means that animal-based foods are a significant contributor to our warming planet.
A new study co-conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan aimed to find out what would happen if Americans changed their animal-rich diets.
"What we found was that a 50% reduction in animal-based foods led to a 35% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions," said Dr. Martin Heller, lead author of the study. "We then took that a step further and asked, well what if we reduced all of the animal-based foods by 50%, but reduced beef to 90%?"
The result was a 51% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, nearly a quarter of the reductions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement target. By doing this, between 2016 and 2030, there would be nearly two and a half billion metric tons less greenhouse gas emissions.
To put that into perspective, 224 million metric tons is the equivalent of more than 47 million passenger vehicles
"I'm certainly not suggesting that changing our diet is going to solve our climate crisis," Heller said. "And the exciting thing is, it's something that as individuals we can all address every day. We make decisions about what we put into our body every day. We're not getting rid of all animal-based foods, it's just, every other day, maybe, we're not going to eat animal foods."