There are so many reasons to adapt a healthier eating regimen, but let me add this one to the list. Eating healthier not only helps you be healthier, but it also helps our planet out, too.
When the New Year rolled around a few months ago, I had to think long about a New Year’s resolution that I wouldn’t quit on after only a few weeks or a month. My final consensus was to no longer eat red meat. And this was not an easy sacrifice to make, either, especially because my grandfather is a commercial beef farmer, and my house is riddled with frozen pounds of delicious steaks and hamburgers. I wanted to start making a positive change and serve as an example, too, so I went ahead and gave it up anyway.
In 2011, a non-profit in Washington D.C., the Environmental Working Group, conducted a study on how the types of meat we consume impacts the environment based on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted through the industry per kilogram of the meat consumed. Lamb meat was ranked the worst for the environment, spitting out about 86.6 pounds of greenhouse gases per kilogram of meat.
I don’t eat a lot of lamb, so giving up that type of meat was easy and not all that impactful in my opinion. Beef came in second worse, according to the study, producing 59.5 pounds of greenhouse gases per kilogram. Then pork, at 26.5 pounds. And chicken showed to be the most environmentally friendly meat, producing only 15. 5 pounds of greenhouse gases per kilogram eaten.
These numbers were enough to make me reconsider my food choices. Along with the well-known fact that chicken is much learner that beef. Since beef is so high in fat and cholesterol, if consumed too regularly, it can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol and other fat-related diseases. It only made sense to me to discontinue my hamburger obsession and turn to turkey burgers.
Along with the greenhouse gas issue, meat also takes a toll on the supply and demand for clean water. Throughout the farming processes, we have to keep in mind the plant side of what goes into maintaining livestock. In order to keep cows, you have to feed them. In order to feed them, you have to grow corn and soybeans. These plants then require watering, and many farmers use pesticides and herbicides in order to ensure their harvest. This creates toxic run off and toxic soil, affecting all living organisms around these plants, eventually dwindling down to affecting us. So when it came to the choice to set aside a steak or poison the ground we walk on, I couldn’t choose the latter.
Now, in no way am I a vegetarian, and in no way do I condemn anyone who just can’t separate from his or her steak. I feel you. But it doesn’t have to be to beef or not to beef. It is more of a how-often-do-you-eat-it kind of ordeal. By choosing beef less often, by only eating it once or twice a week, we could reduce greenhouse gas emission, land and water use by up to 45 percent. On top of that, we’d be investing in our own health, helping us breath in fewer harmful toxins in the air, purifying our water and consuming less fat. Eating less red meat is a win-win — a happier, healthier you and me and a happier, healthier planet and future.