By: Olivia Bauer
Nowadays, meat has become the base of almost every “decent” meal. Think about the meals that you eat. How many included some form of meat? According to the Wall Street Journal, the USDA recommendation for daily meat consumption per individual is .21 pounds or less; however, on average, individuals consume at least .36 pounds daily. Not only is this trend seen on an individual scale, this rapid increase is seen in the entire U.S. as a whole. Within about the last 100 years, average annual meat consumption in the United States has risen by 42.2 pounds. While this may seem like a reflection of a positive economic state (rising incomes lead to increased quality of food consumption, including more meat and dairy), there is a hefty environmental toll associated. Many issues arise in humans and the environment from the production and consumption of animal products.
Although certain amounts of animal product consumption are helpful, especially in meeting daily protein requirements, the overall costs arguably outweigh the benefits. The Earth, with its gorgeous landscapes, busy cities, and billions of people, is actually just one large farm. Of the total land on Earth’s surface, 40% of it is used to feed the world’s population; however, 30% of this land is solely used for agricultural purposes, leaving only 10% for fruits, vegetables, and grains. Livestock production is one of the top leading causes of greenhouse gas production and, therefore, global warming. It also uses an enormous amount of water: around one-third of the Earth’s freshwater. As the rate of meat consumption continues to rise, so does the rate of Earth’s degradation and destruction.
A concern for meatless diets is whether all nutritional requirements are met. However, those who eat solely meatless diets are just as likely to receive the correct amounts of essential nutrients than people who include meat in their diets. For example, calcium can be found in dairy-free milk, nuts, and seeds. Protein is found plentifully in beans and grains. Omega 3s are found in flaxseeds and supplements. Vitamin B-12 is found in the bacteria in the guts of animals, which makes it more difficult for vegetarians to obtain; however, certain cereals and veggie burgers contain this. Additionally, animal products tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Cutting down on these products has been known to result in lower rates of health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, appendicitis, and kidney disease. In addition, strict vegetarians are half as likely to require emergency medical procedures and medication. These reasons lead nutrition experts towards recommending a more plant-based diet. Most notably, meat-free diets are even recommended by the National Cancer Institute, World Health Organization, and The American Heart Association.
This doesn’t mean you need to transition to completely meatless meals right now. However, trying out the trend of “Meatless Mondays” would be a great way to start. Eliminating meat for only one day is not very difficult and will slowly begin to show benefits in the long run. Plus, there are so many easy and tasty vegetarian recipes to try! A fantastic website containing a large variety of vegetarian friendly meals, snacks, appetizers, and desserts (yes, vegans and vegetarians eat desserts and they are very yummy) is www.connoisseurusveg.com. Try it out when looking for your next vegetarian friendly meal!