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SALT LAKE CITY — The majority of Americans overeat protein and should be eating more plant-based foods, according to health experts who met Tuesday to discuss the physical and environmental impacts of meat-eating.
According to Anne Pesek Taylor, a wellness dietitian at the University of Utah, a 150-pound person needs about 50 grams of protein, but is typically consuming close to 90 grams, mostly from animal based sources.
However, this could be starting to change.
Josephine Morris, food and nutrition specialist with The Humane Society of the United States, said the demand for nonmeat protein products is growing. She is seeing higher demand in universities and with fast-food vegan and vegetarian options growing.
In the last week, Burger King announced it is adding a vegetarian burger to its menu. Carl's Jr. added a vegan burger near the end of last year.
"The fact that we’re seeing these fast-casual restraints moving products like this really shows where things are going in the industry," Morris said.
The Humane Society hosted a Forward Food Leadership Summit on Tuesday, the first it has held in Salt Lake City. Presenters discussed plant-based food options with food service professionals from local schools, universities and hospitals.
Morris said the organization is working to help people understand the food of the future, and to teach how to prepare more healthy food options.
She said eating meats is related to heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. She also cited a report from the World Health Organization saying processed meats increase the risk for some types of cancer.
Ann Lokuta, a wellness dietitian and professor at the U., said diet is the most significant risk factor for disability and premature death.
“We know that most of the individuals, in America especially, are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables and plant-based foods,” said Lokuta.
In addition to the negative effects of eating meat on health, it also is extremely harmful to the environment, according to Jessica Kemper, sustainable food initiatives manager at the U.
“It’s pretty clear that the single best thing that an individual can do to reduce climate change is to just eat less meat,” Kemper said.
According to Kemper, food production is responsible for 19 to 29 percent of total global emissions, and the majority of that — 14.5 percent — comes from meat. An additional 8 percent comes from food waste.
"Our food system is directly related to climate change, not only does the food that we eat affect the climate and the food that we purchase affect the climate, but also the way that it’s produced," Kemper said.