It’s about the meat we eat. I think it’s really important – but you probably already know that about me if you read this blog.
Enjoy (and sorry for my long absence. I’m coming back… soon… with a vengeance!)
Make your meals meatless
Reducing the amount of meat in our diets can help our health and the environment.
By Jenny Lynes
The Green Room
Published: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010
“Help stop violence?”
“Not today,” you said.
Gruesome images of upside-down, bloody, feces-stained cows litter animal rights and environmental literature. They’re on the pamphlets you’ve rejected on State Street, too.
It’s disconcerting to read studies about the negative effects of red meat and belching cows ruining the atmosphere, to be sure. Still, surprisingly little of it actually translates to a change when we’re standing in the lunch line. The answer to why most of us don’t oblige and cut down? Simple: Meat tastes good.
Though I won’t deny an occasional urge for my favorite sausage-filled breakfast sandwich, I’m proud of the changes I’ve made in cutting out meat to improve my health and help out the environment. So what did it take?
For me, it wasn’t until I left my urban home to work on a small family farm in Maine and asked the farmer what he thought about “industrial meat” that I realized how simple the choice really is. “I would never eat that shit,” he said. That pretty much settled it.
Don’t get me wrong––the farmer and I shared plenty of eggs (fresh from the coup) and bacon (formerly known as Napoleon the pig). But as I learned more about the implications of mass-produced, machinelike treatment of animals, I learned that most of the meat I’d been eating away from the farm was a product of a disgusting, unethical and dangerous industry that wreaks havoc on our land, water, air and health. Did you know that the chickens to be served at KFC are fed and raised in a manner that they reach physical maturity in just over one month? Count me out.
Let’s put animals aside, though, and first consider the implications for our own bodies. There was a time when eating meat was considered a treat. Now, it’s not unheard of to have it in three meals a day. Need protein, you say? Americans currently consume around 110 grams of it a day, which is roughly double the government’s recommended intake. In fact, new research has shown that high consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of death from cancer and heart disease, as much as 50 percent among women. This type of diet also increases our chances for diabetes, and the rates have sharply increased since 1980 to prove it. Don’t worry too much though, there’s still time to prevent it simply by replacing some meat eating with plant-based foods.
Americans spend about $147 billion annually on preventable illnesses related to food choices: obesity, salmonella outbreaks, diabetes and heart complications. This, paired with astounding hormone influxes and antibiotic resistance thanks to the manner in which it is produced, results in a big headache for the health sector. All the while, the meat industry is encouraged to expand because of better sales than ever before.
While there are scary implications of mass-produced mystery meat (read: McDonald’s), it’s not that all meat is bad for you. But, we must consider if we want to support such practices and realize that we often do so at the expense of putting something healthier into our bodies.
Onto the environment. Since pigs, for one, produce about four times the amount of waste a human does, you can only imagine what happens with literally millions of pounds of feces created daily––it leaves the feedlots with a one-way ticket into our streams and rivers, polluting our air on its way. On top of this pollution, the industry contributes huge amounts of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, worsening global warming.
However, these are preventable problems. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week, the effect would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. While I have determined that the quality of industrial meat is unsatisfactory for my preferences, I realize that is personal. One thing that isn’t: our responsibility to be informed and choose to take steps to help preserve the resources on this planet for those who will come after us.
My overall-wearing, milking, chicken-feeding days have ended, and I’ve resumed my Madison residence for now, but I remain happy and confident with my decision to give up meat unless I know where and how it was raised.
While I don’t believe everyone has to take this step, I do think the message is clear––we need to change the way we eat. I propose that we all eat much, much less meat than we tend to currently. My challenge for Madison is to include it once every other day for now––but I think you’ll see, as I did, that a life with meat as a treat is surprisingly pleasing.
Jenny Lynes is a contributor to The Green Room. Please send all responses to firstname.lastname@example.org