Happy New Year! Still trying to think of the perfect New Year’s resolution—a resolution that promotes health for you and your family and can make a positive impact on our environment? Resolving to reduce meat consumption in 2019 accomplishes both of those goals!
Meat production, and especially red meat, is the single most important source of methane production in our environment. Why does methane production matter? Methane is a greenhouse gas like CO2, but with a 23 times more negative effect on climate than that of CO2. The clearing of forests and vegetation for livestock farming also leads to higher levels of CO2 in the air.
If decreasing methane entering our environment isn’t convincing enough, let’s look at the water use involved. Agriculture uses more fresh water than any other human activity, with nearly a third required for livestock. Farming alfalfa to feed cattle is now the top consumer of water in the state of California. Beef farming uses three times more water than chicken production per kilogram of meat.
Now let’s look at the health effects of a diet heavy in red meat (meaning beef, pork, goat, and lamb). Red meat represents the largest proportion of meat consumed in the United States. Multiple meta-analysis studies have found a significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer in people who eat more red meat consumption. A study by the NIH also found that the people who ate the largest amounts of red meat had a significantly higher risk of cancer of the lung, pancreas, and liver. According to research by the American Cancer Society, red meat is a Group 2A carcinogen meaning that it is probably carcinogenic to humans. Processed meat is a Group 1 carcinogen meaning that it is known to be carcinogenic to humans when eaten in large enough quantities. Processed meats are those that been preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or the by the addition of chemical preservatives. Most hot dogs, corned beef, bacon, and sausage are processed meats.
If a completely vegetarian diet seems overwhelming, you can start by introducing one “meat-free” day per week. There are many plant-based protein options available including nuts and seeds, lentils, tofu, seitan, and tempeh. If your family already participates in Meatless Monday, add an extra meatless day into your schedules each week!
Not sure where to start? Here are some kid-friendly vegetarian recipe links to get you started!