“When we eat we are taking the world into our bodies; that’s a very profound thing. We are changed by what we eat and we in turn change what we are eating. Our most profound engagement with the natural world happens on our plates.”
— Michael Pollan, American Author, Journalist, Activist, and Professor
When we eat, we demonstrate our values.. The foods we choose (and choose to avoid) are an expression of what we care about. So how can we eat in a way that demonstrates our devotion to the environment? Meatless Monday is a great start!
Meatless Monday is exactly what is sounds like — adopting an entirely plant-based diet one day a week (at the least). Why a plant-based diet? Because going meatless is good for you and great for the planet.
Did you know that Americans are the second largest consumers of meat globally, second only to Australia? That means the average American consumes around 193 pounds of beef, pork or chicken a year, 3.7 pounds a week, roughly ½ pound of meat a day! This high volume of meat has to come from somewhere, and unfortunately most comes from animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors to climate change, habitat destruction, and deforestation. The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) attributes 14.5% of global emissions to the world’s livestock farms. To put that in perspective, transportation accounts for only 13 percent.
In 2015, per capita meat consumption in the U.S. increased at the fastest rate in four decades, climbing 5% compared with a year prior, according to data from research and advisory firm Rabobank.
Eating meat hasn’t always been this problematic. The troubles arises because of how meat is produced by BigAg. Factory farms or CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) generate tons of toxic manure that sits in waste dumps and produces` methane, a greenhouse gas emission 25x more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, “a single dairy cow produces about 120 pounds of wet manure per day, which is equivalent to the waste produced by 20–40 people.” And because the livestock are not fed a natural diet, their effluent or liquid waste cannot be returned to nature as fertilizer.
Aside from waste, packing hundreds of animals under one roof regularly leads to inhumane treatment and unsanitary conditions. These conditions increase the chance of disease entering the food supply chain. Factory farming has created a seemingly ceaseless cycle of hormones and antibiotics.
The high demand for meat means unnatural expectations for output and growth. And to meet these pressures, many factory farms (especially here in the U.S.) use large amounts of growth hormones. Together, rapid growth, unsanitary living conditions, and overcrowding cause a host of health problems that are commonly treated with antibiotics. In fact, 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for livestock. It’s impossible to separate meat consumption from antibiotic resistance, which is on the rise. When we eat meat, we are consuming whatever was placed in or eaten by the animal.
The low cost of meat we’ve grown accustomed to is directly tied to factory farm practices – growth hormones, antibiotics, inhumane treatment, and unsanitary living conditions. For the past few decades increasing global demand for and consumption of meat has reinforced production of low quality meat.
The good news is, many organizations and entire countries are working hard to tackle this issue and we are already reaping the benefits of diet change. A recent study found that American’s choices to eat less meat has reduced emissions by the equivalent of pollution from 57 million cars — despite population growth of about 9 percent. Even if you’re not ready to give up meat entirely, simply cutting back on the amount of meat you eat per day or per week can add up in huge ways! What steps will you take to reduce your “meat footprint” today?
Many people believe meat is the only way to get enough protein and energy into their bodies, but that actually isn’t true. Plenty of plant-based options have all the nutrients our bodies need, including all nine essential amino acids. In fact, plant-based and superfood options are often healthier since they aren’t laden with the saturated fats, cholesterol, and added hormones contained in most conventional meat.
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While starvation is still a rampant problem across the globe, obesity has become a significant issue in most developed countries, especially in the United States. We’re facing a public health crisis. For the first time in our nation’s history, our children (generation RX), one-third of whom are overweight or obese, may have a shorter lifespan as a result of obesity.
Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the impact of going meatless, it’s time to try it yourself. Invite a friend to join you for a Meatless Monday feast. If you’re already a vegetarian/vegan, make sure the friend you recruit for this challenge typically consumes meat.
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Blogs, forums, videos and websites dedicated to plant-based eating have created a powerful online community. Offline we are seeing chefs, restaurants, businesses and grocery stores meeting consumer demand by creating and providing meatless options.
Share your artwork or media post on Facebook or Instagram with a brief description of Meatless Monday and the benefits of reducing your meat intake. Tag @turninggreenorg and @sambazon and hashtag #PGC2017 and #meatlessmonday.
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