Americans eat too much meat. This is a widely known fact. Only a few nutbags from the high protein diet movement would dispute this fact. I’m just talking food pyramid wise. According to the food pyramid, we’re only supposed to be eating 3 servings of protein a day, but most Americans eat closer to ten servings. This is thanks in part to the outrageously liberal idea most of us have of what constitutes a serving size, and part to the fact that most of us eat meat (or eggs) at every meal.
When I set out to limit the amount of meat I eat, I knew full well that I already ate less meat than the average American. Of the meat I do eat, more of it is chicken and fish than the average American (not that their environmental impact is any less, but the health impact of those meats is certainly better). But it wasn’t enough, so I decided to limit my meat consumption to one serving a day. I did pretty well with this during the work week, but on the weekend (thanks to excessive eating out) all bets were off. The goal was a work in progress.
The reasons I had for limiting meat were numerous. First, conventional meat production is, by far, the largest contributor to green house gasses and therefore the biggest cause of global warming. (On a side note, I hate when people say eating meat causes global warming. No it does not. Yes, conventional meat production causes global warming, but the act of eating meat does not. When the cavemen killed a woolly mammoth and ate it, it did not release green house gasses into the atmosphere. Sheesh!) Animals, particularly cows, burp and fart large quantities of methane into the atmosphere, and since the American demand for meat is so ungodly high, there is an ungodly number of farm animals emitting ungodly amounts of methane into the air. Not to mention the ungodly amount of space used up farming and slaughtering these animals (space that could have global warming reducing plants growing) and the ungodly amount of fuel used to power the ungodly huge facilities where meat is produced.
Speaking of ungodly, it takes an ungodly amount of food to feed all these cows and chickens and pigs. All of that food could be going to feed all the starving people in the world, or to bring down the rising costs of grains we are all suffering from now, but instead we are feeding it to cattle, then eating the cattle, and getting less net energy out of less net food. Brilliant. And all those crops that feed the meat also use petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, which pollute our soil and water, an require energy to grow, maintain and harvest.
The final reason I wanted to eat less meat is because I’d like to avoid all the growth hormones and antibiotics found in meat. Really, do you want to ingest something that’s designed to make a cow get fatter? Do you think that growth hormones aren’t going to make you fatter too? And we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic in this country.
So basically, meat is responsible on some level for global warming, world starvation, and the obesity epidemic. Yeah, that sounds like something I’d like to limit in my life. Of course, all of these issues would be addressed simply by eating only organic meat, but who can afford that? Have you ever looked at the cost of organic meat? There’s another fact about meat that is UNGODLY!
Now, after reading Skinny Bitch, which I wrote a review of yesterday, I have been confronted with even more reasons to forgo meat as much as I can. For starters, I was completely and willfully ignoring the fact that dairy has the same environmental impacts as meat (I buy about half of my dairy organic, but still …). I got slapped in the face with more health benefits of limiting, or down right eliminating, meat and dairy. For example, another thing that is designed to fatten up cows is milk. Seriously. Calfs drink nothing but cows milk to grow from 90 to 2000 lbs over the course of 2 years. Do we really want to be consuming a lot of something that is designed by nature to make anything that drinks it grow to 20 times its original size? And I was horrified to read some of the treatments animals have to suffer in conventional meat production facilities. I mean, deep down, I always knew it was bad, but being confronted with it really forced me to acknowledge it. And finally, the issue of how meat is handled in those places (not to mention how the employees are treated, anyone ever read Fast Food Nation?) just disgusted me beyond belief. Let me just say I will not be feeding my son meat baby food, and I don’t recommend you do either.
So now my goal is to eliminate as much meat and dairy from my diet as I can possibly stand. This means I’ll pretty much only be eating meat at family and work functions, and even then I’ll do it in very small servings. Dairy I will probably eat a little more often (because I love it!) but I am experimenting with vegan alternatives to foods I am willing to replace (pretty much everything but cheese and chocolate). I am now using soy milk on my cereal, a soy based butter spread, soy mayonnaise, and yesterday I snacked on some wheat-free, dairy-free Newman-O’s (organic Oreos knock offs – the texture will take some getting used to, but it helps me keep my portion sizes in mind). I’m also going to work at incorporating more vegetarian meals into my recipe book. If anyone has a good vegetarian/vegan recipe, please send it to me, or post it in the comments of this blog. I’d love to have them.
I will keep everyone posted on my progress becoming an almost-vegan (that’s what I’ve decided to call it). Maybe one day it will evolve beyond this, but for now I think this is the most anyone is going to get out of me.