Tag Archives: meat consumption

Eat Less Meat (part 2)

Hudson Valley lettuceLast week we discussed how eating less meat can benefit our pocketbook and our health. This week we’ll look at how eating less meat can help curb climate change, save the environment and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

Curbs climate change
In 2006, a United Nations study reported that the livestock industry contributed 18 percent to greenhouse-gas emissions – more than emissions from every single car, train and plane on the planet. Livestock production contributes 9 percent of carbon dioxide, 37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. The total food system contributes 33 percent of the total climate change effect with 12 percent from methane and nitrous oxide emissions, 18 percent from deforestation and land use changes, and 1.5 to 2 percent from fertilizer production and distribution. Information on transportation, waste and manufacturing were unavailable.

To sum up, emissions from factory farms – including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – contribute a great deal to climate change, so when you cut back on the amount of meat you eat, you are also cutting back on the emissions that contribute to global warming.

Want to learn more about the effect of meat production and agriculture on climate change? Check out Anna Lappe’s Take a Bite Out of Climate Change for more on the connection between global warming, the food on your plate, and the choices you make every day. And watch for Lappe’s book, Diet for a Hot Planet, to be released next spring.

Wondering what all the hoopla is about climate change and why you should care? Check out the movie An Inconvenient Truth or Al Gore’s program The Climate Project.

Helps save the environment
Industrial meat production not only contributes to climate change but also pollutes our air, land and water. The huge amount of manure factory farms create cannot be absorbed by the land. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 335 million tons of manure is produced each year on U.S. farms. This waste sits in open air lagoons, emitting hundreds of kinds of gases, including hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The North Carolina hog industry alone produces 300 tons of ammonia per day.

The manure is then often over applied to land or leaks from storage areas, polluting the land and water. One dairy farm with 2500 cows can produce as much waste as a city with around 411,000 people – and the manure does not have to be treated! In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency identified agricultural activity as a source of pollution for 48 percent of stream and river water.

Manure also contains high levels of disease-causing microorganisms, called pathogens, which can find their way into the soil and water. In every disease outbreak from water in the United States from 1986 to 1998 where the pathogen could be identified, the Centers for Disease Control concluded it most likely originated in livestock.

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Eat Less Meat

18-openrangeDoctors to rock stars to Nobel Peace Prize-winning UN panels and even nonprofit organizations are telling us to eat less meat. But why?

To start, if we cut out red meat, fish and/or poultry one day a week without changing any other part of our diet, we would reduce animal protein consumption approximately 8.4 ounces a week, the daily amount the average U.S. citizen eats. That comes out to 27.3 pounds a year. Multiply that by the 304 million people in this country (as of July 2008) and collectively we would reduce our meat, fish and poultry consumption over 8 billion pounds!

That’s a lot of meat and would have an enormous positive impact because reducing your meat consumption saves you money, is better for your health, curbs climate change, helps save the environment, and lessens our dependence on foreign oil. Really. All that from cutting back on the amount of meat you eat. To help even more, make sure the meat you do eat is from local sustainable farms.

Let’s take a quick look at each of these reasons.

Saves you money.
Meat can be expensive, oftentimes the most expensive item in the grocery store, so it can take a big dent out of your weekly food budget. A good way around this is to simply cut back on the amount of meat you eat. The 8.4 ounces of red meat, poultry and fish Americans consume per day comes to almost 192 pounds per year.

By cutting out meat just one day a week, you’ll be cutting out 27.3 pounds of meat per person each year. The amount of money you save will vary greatly between where you live and the type of meat, but if you buy ribeye steak on Long Island, NY, you’d pay around $7.99 a pound, so if you ate the 8.4 ounces an average American eats, you would save over $218 a year. Cutting back on a pound of meat a week would save you over $415.00 a year. And if you’re a family of four and you buy 2 ½ pounds of steak, that’s a savings of $20 per week or over $1000 a year!

Better for your health
Diets high in red meat like hamburgers and steaks and processed meats like cold cuts, bacon and hot dogs have been linked to an increased risk of death from heart disease and cancer. (The risk from fish and poultry is less.)

The National Cancer Institute studied over 545,000 people from 50 to 71 years old and followed their eating habits for 10 years. There were more than 70,000 deaths during that time. The report, released in March of this year, states that middle aged to older Americans who ate only a quarter-pound hamburger (that’s 4 ounces) a day were 22 percent more likely to die from cancer and 27 percent more likely to die of heart disease, in comparison to individuals who ate only 5 ounces of meat a week. Women had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.

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