Flexitarians on the rise in Ireland

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay
Infrographic produced by and Edited by Saenal Lee.

 Association with Flexitarian lifestyle in Ireland has increased from 14% to 24%  from 2018 to 2020, according to the report by Bord Bia in 2021. Furthermore, adherence to this type of diet lifestyle in terms of food consumption behaviour has increased from 12% to 16% in Ireland. The respondents of the report said that the first motivation for adopting a diet lifestyle was the physical reason, as well, mental, and social reasons.

What is Flexitarian? We are not familiar with this new term. The word, flexitarian, was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blather in the US in 2008 for the first time. Flexitarian is a made-up word from a combination of words flexible and vegetarian, signifying its followers’ less strict diet pattern when it is compared to vegetarian or vegan pattern diets. It basically means a semi-vegetarian diet. It is a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation.

 The diet is popularised by urban millennials these days. The emerging trend of flexitarianism seems to recognize the fact that meat is enjoying by many and is a valuable source of macro and micronutrients yet also considers the ethical sides, such as the need to avoid intensification and improve animal welfare. Flexitarian diets also appear to encompass the fact that alternative and sustainable sources of dietary protein are needed because the human population is both growing and aging.

 It is well-known that the meat industry causes many environmental issues worldwide. In Ireland, if you look at where greenhouse gas emissions come from in agriculture and primarily it is the beef and dairy industry. It is dominated really by methane emissions which comes from enteric fermentation in the cow and bull stomach. As well, nitrogen pollution in terms of run off into groundwater, is very significant. Excessive nutrient losses to waters can lead to accelerated growth of algae and plants, significant ecological impacts and eutrophication in rivers, lakes and marine waters and is the most significant pollution issue for surface waters in Ireland.

This study suggests that adopting a flexitarian diet can help individuals reduce their impact on the environment. According to research by the scientist Joseph Poore at Oxford University, if every person in the UK substituted a red meat meal to a plant-based one just once a week, the impact on the environment would be the same as reducing all the cars on the road by 16 million. Further research published in the science journal Nature states that compared to current projections for 2050, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by up to 52 percent if more people switched to a flexitarian diet.

If you want to reduce your personal pollution, switching to a plant-based diet or being a flexitarian is a good place to start. Individually, it’s a minor improvement, but together, it could have a huge effect – one that could truly save the world!

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