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Cutting out almost all meat from the nation's diet could help reduce greenhouse emissions, a new report out today claims.

The first guidelines for an environmentally-friendly diet recommends just 4% meat to meet the 2020 climate change targets. According to the Livewell report released by wildlife charity WWF and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, red and white meat are "hotspots" for environmental impact.

Latest figures showed the UK diet currently includes around 16% meat. The Livewell 2020 regime would also involve eating more fruit, vegetables and cereal, and less processed products to reduce the environmental impact of the food industry.

Authors of the report said the low-carbon diet, which still allows for chocolate, crisps and chips, would cost £28.40 per person per week compared with an average spend of £32.12 per person in 2009. It said: "With increasing recognition of the environmental impact of food and drink, future food policy and dietary advice need to go beyond the traditional focus on nutrient recommendations for health to include wider issues of sustainability."  

As well as a small percentage of meat, the Livewell 2020 diet also includes 35% fruit and vegetables, 29% bread, pasta, rice and potatoes and 15% dairy products. A seven-day sample menu included a breakfast of high-fibre cereal with semi-skimmed milk, wholemeal sandwiches for lunch and dishes such as chicken curry and rice, macaroni cheese and chilli beef tortillas for dinner.

The report also said it was possible to reach the 2050 target of 70% less greenhouse emissions through a more limited diet. Colin Butfield, WWF's head of campaigns, said: "If we want to protect the species and forests that are at the heart of WWF's work, then we have to fundamentally change our food system. "Today's report gives a picture of a way of eating that is good for the planet and good for your health too.

For some, it might even be cheaper. "This is not a radical proposal - it's a diet that contains meat or fish every day and that includes everything from chicken curry to macaroni cheese. "The debate on the environmental impacts of food has often been polarised around meat-eating versus vegetarianism.

This is unhelpful. "Certainly livestock is a hotspot in terms of environmental impact but what we should be debating is sustainable versus unsustainable food choices. "This is about balancing our diet, not necessarily eliminating foods."

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