I love to eat cows – steaks, hamburgers, tacos – yum. I love to eat pigs – pork chops, ribs, bacon, sausage – delicious. Chickens? I love them too – all the way from their little legs and wings to their thighs and breasts – even gizzards! Salmon, trout, sturgeon, halibut? Can’t get enough of it. Every cell in my body is a ravenous carnivore. Just to put it all in perspective, I read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle while eating a juicy hamburger. Now, have I thoroughly turned off all of the vegans and vegetarians out there? Probably, and I do apologize, but this post today isn’t for you. You already know what I’m about to say and you’ve been practicing it for years. The world needs more people like you.
Today, this article is for people like me – people who love meat with every bone in their body but are open to learning more about how their consumption of it is affecting their quest to live a sustainable life.
We’re keen to refurbish our homes or call in an office clearance team, but there’s more we can do. Having a comfortable living or working space is great, but it’s essential we consider the bigger picture. Monitoring your personal meat consumption is one way you can contribute to environmental preservation while also saving a fair bit of money.
You probably know already that eating meat is more expensive than eating fruits, vegetables, beans, and other seemingly less delicious alternatives. What you might not have considered is the huge environmental impact eating all that meat creates. But how much more expensive is it and what impact does it really have on our global eco-system?
The dollars and cents of meat
When you compare all the work and resources it takes to raise a cow to maturity and get it onto your dinner plate versus what would be required of, say, a cucumber, there’s no difficulty in seeing why you’re probably used to paying about 150% more for ground beef than your typical vegetable.
An animal like a cow requires enormous amounts of space, water, grain, hormones, antibiotics, and time to reach the status of tasty and consumable. The statistic that a vegetarian requires 300 gallons of water a day to produce their daily food compared to 4,000 gallons necessary for a meat-eater is just one shocking metric.
Looking back on my last few weeks of meals, I’ve realized that I probably eat meat, in one form or another, at least once a day, often twice. This is costing me a small fortune! If I scaled back my meat consumption to just once every other day, a small and easily achievable goal, I could really save some money. A quick back-of-the-napkin calculation brings it to around $37 a month! If I were to go wholly vegetarian, I’d save closer to $50.
I could save about $600 a year by practicing vegetarianism. Ya know, I’ve been meaning to do more traveling, and two years of vegetarianism would cover the cost of a round trip ticket to almost any major airport in the world. Compelling.
Don’t get too caught up with the money. It’s highly motivational for some, but there’s another very legitimate reason to evaluate your meat consumption.
The environment and meat production
The environmental impact of large scale meat production, especially in the United States, is tremendous. When you think of the biggest changes we can make to green our world, what comes to mind? I’ve always thought of things like solar panels and wind turbines, biodiesel, recycling centers, and electric cars. No doubt, these are all important pieces of the puzzle. But recently, I learned that the biggest and most important change that I can make is to reduce my red meat consumption. It’s not a change that immediately jumps out at you. It’s not a topic you’ll likely hear about in the news, and it’s not the forefront of technology so there isn’t much of a mainstream crowd cheering it on.
Come to think of it, most of the high value sustainable changes that have to do with personal conservation and responsibility never seem to get much attention. What gives?
Anyway, looking back, you might notice that all the reasons that meat is so expensive are the same reasons that it’s so unsustainable:
An animal like a cow requires enormous amounts of space, water, grain, hormones, antibiotics, and time to reach the status of tasty and consumable.
The space required to raise enough beef to feed our incurable appetite is exponentially higher than for a comparable amount of non-meat foods. They drink water by the gallon. There doesn’t exist enough grass to feed all the cattle that feed us, so their diet must be supplemented with grain that is grown elsewhere and transported to them. You know…so on and so forth.
It’s been estimated that over half of all fossil fuels used in the US are used to raise animals and as much as 80% of our farmland is dedicated to it as well. Reducing meat consumption is more important than driving more efficient cars when it comes to energy independence. And think of what we could do with all that farmland.
This isn’t all, though. I saved the best for last. Get this – cow farts (and burps) are a leading cause of ozone depletion. The methane gas they emit in their flatulence is 20 times worse than the carbon dioxide belching out of your neighbor’s hummer. Humans produce methane gas as well, but a cow produces 800 times more of it every day. Now, judging by Jessie’s habits, I’d say the margin is much narrower, but I’ll default to the scientists this time.
Suffice it to say that our taste for meat is really wreaking some havoc on Mother Earth.
But I didn’t crawl all the way up the food chain just to…
Me either. I know. I’m not asking you to become a vegetarian. I don’t want you to become a vegan. Not if you don’t want to. I don’t want you to deprive yourself of food you love. Like I said at the very beginning, I love meat too (refer to the opening paragraph for all the types and ways).
What I want you to do is become more conscious of how much you eat, especially red meat. You may eat all kinds of meat and not even realize that you’re experiencing the law of diminishing returns. If you eat meat every day, how much are you actually enjoying it? What if you only ate it every other day? Once a week? How much more would you appreciate it if you had it less often? Big changes start with small steps. Challenge yourself to cut back a little bit and you might find it’s not so bad. You might even discover you like it when you start feeling healthier and enjoying the meat you do eat that much more. You might not even notice that the change you make is keeping Ol’ Heifer from stinkin’ up the joint. Who knows what could happen.
As for me, I’ll be taking myself up on the challenge I proposed earlier: one serving of meat every other day. It feels like a great place to start. I know that if I can meet that goal, I can cut my consumption back even more and continue doing so until I’ve made a huge change to my habit without feeling any pain.
Now get out there and eat some veggies! And remember, a clean colon is a happy colon.
Do you eat too much meat? Did you realize how big of an impact factory farming has on our environment? Do you disagree and think we should eat meat until our colons explode?
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