Does this strike a little too close to home? We hope not, because it’s one of the easiest and most basic ways to do good both for your personal self and for the environment. Eat Much Less Red Meat. And by red meat, we mean any ranched or farmed meat that does not come from a bird: Steak, bacon, pork chops, farmed venison, whatever.
Why is reduction of meat consumption good for the environment? That’s a question with a variety of very simple answers.
First of all, consider the fresh water resources that are required to produce meat. In order to bring one pound of hamburger to market, beef producers require on average 660 gallons of water – that’s over two months of the water required for an average American’s showers. So consider this choice, for example: cleanliness for two months, or two Whoppers (no cheese)? Most SLGC ladies don’t consider Whoppers to have any place in our diets, but you get my drift -- As fresh water resources on earth dwindle in this time of climate change, both Whoppers and showers will get much more expensive. Opt for changing the meat habit now, and get ahead of the curve.
Water aside, let’s consider meat production’s impact on climate change. The greenhouse gasses (overwhelmingly methane) derived from livestock and their byproducts total more than half of greenhouse gasses produced on earth each year. Unlike CO2, which has a very long life in the atmosphere, methane deteriorates in 40 years, on average. If we cut back drastically on meat production immediately we could buy time to solve greenhouse gas problems by 2060. If everyone on earth drove a Prius – or better yet, a bicycle – we could not ever reach that kind of greenhouse gas reduction. So let’s pat ourselves on the back, Prius-drivers, only after we cut back drastically on eating red meat.
Then there is packaging. Meat packaging relies on multiple types of plastic. As we have discussed in prior columns, flexible plastic wrap (typically used in market meat packing) transfers endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic styrenes to the food with which it comes into contact. Meat is often sold on packing trays of expanded polystyrene, also proven to transfer styrenes to the meat products and thence to the people who eat the meat. Benzene is also produced as a side effect of making polystyrenes, and is recognized as a cause for leukemia and as a Volatile Organic Compound that eventually leaches into our groundwater, and thus our fresh water. Dioxins are also used in the production of polystyrenes; these cause endocrine and immune disorders and are proven to affect fetal development in workers who are exposed to them. Polystyrenes are also one of the primary components of marine debris, as discussed in last month’s Position Paper article.
Besides, doesn’t your physician tell you you’d be healthier if you ate less red meat? So what the heck! Meatless Mondays were always a good start – let’s opt for Meatless Weekdays!
For more information on the subject of red meat, read the article by Drs. Oz and Roizen published last week.