“Meat consumption today contributes to global warming and environmental degradation,” Branson wrote. “It’s estimated that 14.5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock – which is more than the contribution from all forms of transport. Beef production makes up 41% of those emissions.”
He goes on to explain that cattle farming can be a big drain on natural resources — for example, a 2010 study by UNESCO showed that it takes 1,799 gallons of water just to produce one pound of beef. Deforestation in the Amazon is increasing, and 80% of that deforested land is used for cattle farming.
Branson isn’t the first public figure to encourage a move away from meat.
Beyond Meat, a startup that creates synthetic meat out of a plant-based protein, has earned investments from Bill Gates and Twitter cofounders Biz Stone and Evan Williams. Some restaurants in New York City and other major cities are creating dishes with insects, which are believed to be a good source of protein.
Raising grass-fed cattle in a pasture instead of a warehouse could also help reduce the consumption of resources, according to Branson.
“Cattle and other livestock don’t have to be environmentally harmful. Cows, pigs, sheep and chickens did not evolve to be shoved in a large, dark warehouse and pumped full of feed. Grass-fed cattle raised on pasture need much smaller resource inputs,” he wrote.
He said that the change has had a positive impact on his well-being.
“I feel healthier, more active and by making my diet more varied I never feel like I’m missing out on anything,” he wrote. “Stopping eating beef has also had a knock-on effect on the rest of my diet, and I am eating less. “