First of all, I am not a vegetarian or a vegan. But I am interested in my health, the environment, the treatment of animals, and saving money. If you aren’t into any of those things, you might find the following information boring.
It’s funny how people panic when they see the word vegan. They’re perfectly interested in a menu item and its list of tempting ingredients until they spot some indication that it’s suitable for vegan consumption. Suddenly their brow contorts, they look horrified, and they immediately move on to something more appetizing.
I wrote a post a couple days ago concerning the stigma surrounding vegetarian options, but I thought I might expound a little bit on the benefits of eating a little less meat each week – for Earth, animals, you, and your budget. (If you want to skip my pontificating and get to the point, you’re welcome to skip to the fabulous TED talk at the end of the post.)
Here are some statistics to get you disgusted— I-I mean get you started:
Factory Farming creates more pollution than all transportation in the USA combined. Not only does the mass amounts of untreated animal waste generate an estimated 37 percent of methane emissions, but the runoff from waste lagoon spills can contaminate water sources and damage local ecosystems. And be sure to add to that the water and fuel used to produce and transport the inordinate amount of animal feed required to raise 10 billion animals per year.
There is a direct correlation between over-consumption of animal products and disease. As outlined in The China Study and made popular by the documentary Forks Over Knives, animal products consumed in moderation are fine, but the excess in which most people in the world indulge is causing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods are full of nutrients that combat disease and keep the human body functioning at a healthy weight. And let’s not even get into the antibiotics issue.
Animals are confined in unacceptable, inhumane conditions for the duration of their lives before they’re slaughtered. Animal warehouses are overcrowded, covered in waste, and windowless. The animals are confined in battery cages, gestation crates, and other devices that limit mobility — sometimes animals spend their entire lives – years – unable to even turn around. And most never see sunlight until they’re sent out to be slaughtered.
But what can be done? Surely one individual can’t make a difference, right? The solution is actually satisfyingly simple. Buy less meat, and if you do choose to buy meat, buy organic! But buying organic meat is really expensive, right? Well that’s the funny thing about buying less meat…
How long does a package of chicken weighing one pound last in your house? I would guesstimate that the answer is one night. One package of chicken makes one meal, right? That’s the thinking anyway. But let’s say it didn’t work out that way. How long could you stretch out that meat for? Can you use one-third of the package of meat in your meal, supplementing good starches, vegetables, beans, and other proteins to make it bigger?
Not only is eating less meat per meal healthier, it makes your purchase last a lot longer. A pound of chicken at Trader Joe’s runs me 5 or 6 dollars. And that package will last me three dinners. The other four dinners at my house are usually vegan, vegetarian, or seafood dishes. Even if you choose to have meat with every meal, how much meat must you use? How much do you spend on meat per week at your house? Think about it; the answer may surprise you.
I propose that less meat at a slightly higher price will actually save you money in the long run. I do the grocery shopping for my family of two and my grocery bill is usually about 25-35 dollars per week. That means if I really splurge I still only spend about 150 dollars a month on groceries. Not bad for shopping organic, huh?
Finally, here is the fantastic TED Talk by Mark Bittman on eating better: filling our plates with more plants and a little less meat.
“Less meat, less junk, more plants. It’s a simple formula: eat food.”