Manic Monday right now, you're definitely a child of the 80's. And now that I have your attention, let's talk about meat. (You can still hum along if you'd like). The Great American Meat Out is coming soon on Saturday, March 20th. As mentioned in previous posts, I know that people can get touchy when it comes to food, especially meat. But this post isn't so much about telling anyone what we should or shouldn't eat, it's bigger than that.
In the spirit of eco-steps, the Great American Meat Out and the Meatless Monday movements are definitely ways that small changes in behavior can add up to tremendous benefits. By reducing your meat consumption, you can:
Reduce your carbon footprint. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly 1/5th of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. Reducing meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
Minimize water usage. The water needs of livestock well exceed those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. A single pound! And, we're running out of fresh water so we we need to do all we can to be smart about our water consumption. (To be addressed in a future post).
Reduce dependence on fossil fuels. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. (Yes, that's right- plant-based protein). Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.
Also, by kicking the meat habit (at least) once a week, you can get some additional health benefits! You can:
Reduce your risk of heart disease. Beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds contain little to no saturated fats. Reducing your intake of saturated fats can help keep your cholesterol low and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Maintain a healthy weight. A plant-based diet is a great source of fiber, which is absent in animal products. Foods rich in fiber make you feel full with fewer calories, resulting in lower calorie intake and less overeating. On average, Americans get less than half the recommended daily quantity of fiber.
Improve the overall quality of your diet. Consuming dry beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.
So instead of thinking of your meat-free meal as deprivation, try thinking of it as a way to be healthier, help the planet, be kinder to animals and explore new foods and flavors. You just might like it!