IF YOU'RE someone who enjoys tucking into a juicy steak, there's a long list of reasons why you shouldn't according to new research.
While meat can be an important source of protein and nutrition, it also has a downside, and there's way more to it than the obvious increased risk of certain types of diseases such as colorectal cancer - and it's a major worldwide problem.
There are scientific reasons why meat is bad for our climate, environment, agriculture, behaviour, ethics and even antibiotic use.
But researchers say people are "unaware of the range and severity of meat's environmental impacts", especially when compared to other food habits.
They've also found that environmental sustainability is hardly a motivation to encourage people to stop eating meat because they're more concerned about their money and health.
"The consumption of meat, at least when viewed from the global perspective, is one of the most environmentally damaging day-to-day behaviours that humans perform," said researcher Garrett Lentz from the University of Otago.
"This is due to the vast range and severity of impacts tied to the raising of animals for food, including land and water degradation; habitat and biodiversity loss; and contribution to pollution, ocean dead zones, and climate change.
"No matter the driver for change, whether it be for environmental sustainability, improved public health or animal welfare, reduced meat consumption would result in a more efficient food system that could feed more people with fewer resources, thereby minimising at least some of the associated environmental impacts that are being seen today."
Eating processed meat is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, and processed and red meat may also increase people's risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The new review, published in Science, found that moving from a high meat to a more plant-based diet could reduce global mortality rates by six to 10 per cent.
University of Oxford researchers said even though teasing apart confounding factors such as smoking and obesity was tricky, large-scale studies of Western countries had linked high red and processed meat intake with greater mortality rates.
They outline how meat production resulted in more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy compared with plant-based foods.
While changing peoples' meat consumption behaviour was difficult, the researchers said some options had shown success.
One example was certification programs run by the private sector or non-government organisations, which provided trusted evidence about welfare or environmental standards.
They said moves like Denmark's to put higher taxes on meat also showed promise.
The World Cancer Research Fund recommended people who ate red meat should have less than 500g a week, while the Global Burden of Disease project suggested people ate no more than 100g a week.