My family cannot live without eating meat for more than two weeks. I know growing teenagers and athletes, like mine, need protein and lots of it. But they crave red meat. Not just chicken or pork but sizzling hot juicy steak with buttery potatoes once in a while. They can eat hamburgers every day if I let them. They prefer Bolognese gravy over Primavera with spaghetti any day. Me? I’m OK with a meatless diet. I’m not a strict vegetarian but I can make do without meat in my food. So when I heard about Meatout on Mondays, it intrigued me. What is more interesting about this campaign, other than the obvious, is the consideration for the environment. I had to do some research.
According to Meatout.org…
Kicking the meat habit” holds lasting benefits for consumer health, world hunger, resource conservation, environmental quality, and animal protection.
Kicking the meat habit reduces our risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other chronic diseases that cripple and kill nearly 1.4 million Americans annually.
Kicking the meat habit decreases our exposure to infectious pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, which kill several thousand Americans annually and sicken millions more.
Kicking the meat habit raises our energy level, lowers our food budget, and simplifies food preparation and cleanup.
Kicking the meat habit frees up grains and other foods that can be used to feed the world’s hungry. Animals are extremely inefficient “protein converters;” it can take up to 16 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef.
Kicking the meat habit preserves our topsoil, water, and other food production resources vital to the survival of our children and their children.
Kicking the meat habit protects our forests, grasslands, and other wildlife habitats from encroachment by cattle ranchers while reducing the polluting effects of methane, soil particles, manure, and pesticides on our air and water.
Kicking the meat habit saves animals from caging, crowding, deprivation, drugging, mutilation, manhandling, and agonizing slaughter. Each person who adopts a plant-based diet saves over 80 innocent, sentient animals each year. Over a lifetime, an individual can save more than 6,000 animals just by going vegan.
Hmmmm…..but this is a “vegetarian” organization. Their mission is to promote vegetarianism, you say? I thought so too so I dug deeper for more objective opinion.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. These are generated during the production of animal feeds, while cows, emit methane, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide. The agency has also warned that meat consumption is set to double by the middle of the century.
According to Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should go on to reduce their meat consumption – once a week at first, and then even further after that. Pachauri said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems – including habitat destruction – associated with rearing cattle and other animals. It was relatively easy to change eating habits compared to changing means of transport, he said.
OK, so the doctor is a vegetarian Economist and his views might be skewed too. Then, there is this information.
Last year a major report into the environmental impact of meat eating by the Food Climate Research Network at Surrey University claimed livestock generated 8 per cent of UK emissions – but eating some meat was good for the planet because some habitats benefited from grazing. It also said vegetarian diets that included lots of milk, butter and cheese would probably not noticeably reduce emissions because dairy cows are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas released through flatulence.
Now we are talking about cows farting being bad for the environment? Yes. According to “New Scientist”, flatulent cows and decaying manure release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And I thought the “fresh” farm smell was only good for waking up my olfactory nerves.
The next report is from Canada.
Cutting back on beef burgers and bacon could wipe $20 trillion off the cost of fighting climate change. That’s the dramatic conclusion of a study that totted up the economic costs of modern meat-heavy diets. The researchers involved say that reducing our intake of beef and pork would lead to the creation of a huge new carbon sink, as vegetation would thrive on unused farmland. In general, red meat emits 2.5 times as much greenhouse gas as chicken or fish, since rearing cows and other livestock requires a lot of energy. It takes 2.3 kilograms of grain to make every kilo of chicken meat, 5.9 kg of grain for a kilo of pork, and 13 kg of grain plus 30 kg of forage for a kilo of beef. Worse still, they produce methane and their manure releases nitrous oxide.
And relating carnivorous diet and fossil fuel, Jolinda Hackett of About.com states that,
…more than 1/3 of all fossil fuels produced in the United States go towards animal agriculture. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein. This means that ten times the amount of carbon dioxide is emitted as well. Where does all this waste occur?
Each animal that is slaughtered for food must be fed with grains, soy and other crops. The production of these crops requires energy consumption. This feed must then be harvested, transported to feedlots. From the feedlots, animals are then transported to a slaughter house, the carcasses are often trucked (in refrigerated trucks – another energy consumer) to yet another processing plant before the meat is ready to be transported to a grocery store. Next time you’re driving the interstate, take a look at all the trucks around you and think about all the emissions and fuel consumption each one of those trucks is using to transport materials from one location to another. Many of these trucks are transporting food for animals, or the animals themselves.
A report in the New Scientist estimated that driving a hybrid car rather than an average vehicle would conserve a little over one ton of carbon dioxide per year. A vegan diet, however, consumes one and a half tons less than the average American diet. Adopting a vegan diet actually does more to reduce emissions than driving a hybrid car! With the energy needed to produce a single hamburger, you could drive a small car twenty miles.
You don’t have to convince me not to eat meat for health reasons. But for environmental reasons? OK, now I’m convinced.
So to celebrate the 25th anniversary Meatout Day this Friday March 20th, I urge you to join me and eat no meat for one day on that day. Then, have no meat on Mondays. You can join the supporters and sign up here. I did. And my family is going to have to accept Meatless Mondays and soon, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, ……..shhhh don’t tell them.