You probably know at least one vegetarian.
Maybe you even know a vegan. Maybe you know a lot of them. Maybe you are one.
If you aren’t, you might be afraid to join what seems like a cult of tree-hugging yoga lovers with kale bumper stickers.
I’m here to explain why eating less meat doesn’t have to freak you out, and why it is a good idea.
I’m not trying to push you into being a strict veg-eater. I don’t believe in being pushy. I’m just here to say, hey, if you don’t want to totally give up steak, why not be a part-time vegetarian?
It is true.
Eating less meat is good for your body. Replacing meat with vegetables, fruits and whole grains creates a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a thinner waist and less susceptibility to cancer. Good stuff. If you have a family, decreasing meat consumption together will keep them healthier too.
Also, think of the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides you consume by eating meat. Hormones are given to meat animals to increase both growth rate and milk production, which in turn increases our risk of developing cancer. Antibiotics are regularly fed to the animals also, producing antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that we end up eating.
Pesticides and even arsenic originating in the industrially farmed animal feed can also be found in meat and milk products. Oh, and remember the Pink Slime scare? The USDA approved the use of ammonia to wash meat before consumption. Several years later, many companies are dropping the use of Pink Slime, but you have to wonder about what other unhealthy tactics of meat production the USDA has approved.
Other practical benefits?
Save some money! I get called a cheap date on a pretty frequent basis because when I eat out, I go for the veggie meals. Instead of a $20 steak, I have a $10 plate loaded with health and nutrients. Yum.
Most importantly, eating less meat can save the world. No, seriously! The way we mass produce meat on factory farms kills our environment and takes food away from a huge population of people around the world. According to Time Magazine, 70 percent of agricultural land in the U.S.A. is used to feed and raise meat animals, yet we have people struggling to eat in our own towns.
Plus, think of the carbon emissions associated with shipping that meat around the country. Carbon emissions come from lugging the animals, their feed, and the meat all over the country. In terms of environmental impact, Time Magazine also notes that a four-person family going meat-free one day per week is equivalent to parking your car for three months.
Producing beef creates carbon emissions 13 times greater than those from growing veggies.
Waste also comes from the animals themselves in the form of methane, ammonia and nitrous oxide.
Last but not least (you knew this was coming), we will briefly discuss the horrific slaughter tactics used in the meat industry. Think of this: you grow up in a crowded cage or meat lot, standing in deep manure, walking over your sick and injured neighbors to reach the piles of corn, soy, pesticides and hormones that you are fed to maximize your growth.
Once you are beefy enough (no pun intended…OK, maybe pun intended), you are chased into a truck by unfriendly humans and hauled to the slaughter house. Maybe you die of dehydration and illness along the way, maybe not. Either way, you enter the slaughterhouse, either dragged in as a dead or ill animal or walking in. Hopefully you die before you are skinned, sliced into pieces and boiled, but you might not.
I know a lot of people who refuse to watch slaughter videos. I think they just don’t want to accept the fact that the way we grow and slaughter animals these days is cruel. If you don’t care much for animal rights, consider the other reasons to decrease your meat consumption—the health of yourself, your family, the environment and everybody else in the world.
Give it a shot. Do what you can.
If you eat meat every day, try to eat meat only six days a week. If you eat meat a few days a week, eat it a little bit less.
If you are inspired enough, ditch it all together and go hug a cow.
Lauren Carter is a Registered Nurse, Certified Yoga Teacher, Certified Personal Trainer and was Miss Vermont USA 2011. She currently lives on a lovely remote tropical island with her fiance, puppy, kitten and pony. Check out her health blog or learn more about life on island at coconutcrab.wordpress.com.
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- Asst. Ed: Amy Cushing
- Ed: Brianna Bemel