3 Reasons You Should Skip Meat Once a Week

Have you ever really thought about where your food comes from? Like really thought about it? It is so common in America to disassociate our food with its primary source. Same reason you feel uncomfortable eating a fish with the head still on or wouldn’t eat a chicken with the feet still attached. The meat industry specifically likes to hide the operations that happen behind closed doors—not the doors of a brightly painted red barn. 

The Environment

Factory farming affects water resources in three ways. First, the amount of water needed to raise such a massive amount of cattle is ridiculous. It takes 2400 gallons of water to produce only one pound of meat. This includes drinking water for animals and the water it takes to grow the grains and grass they eat. In comparison, one pound of wheat only takes 25 gallons to produce. Choosing to eat factory-farmed meat is a choice to waste water. If this trend continues, 250 million people will be suffering from water shortages around the world by 2020.

Secondly, water is widely polluted by factory farming. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal agriculture is the number-one cause of water pollution. One million tons of manure are produced by factory-farmed animals each day, which is usually stored in open-air lagoons that are basically lakes filled with animal feces. Leaks can occur when the area is flooding, causing the lagoons to spill into the nearby bodies of water. Fish are killed and local drinking water is contaminated. Animal feces flows into the waterway and disrupts habitats. Because factory-farmed animals are injected with antibiotics to keep disease from spreading, their waste is infecting fish and making them develop abnormally. In West Virginia and Maryland, there are male fish developing ovaries due to leaked factory farm runoff.

Lastly, gas released from cows ultimately can cause acid rain. When cows pass gas, ammonia is released into the air; in small quantities this may seem irrelevant, but when hundreds of thousands of cows are in a central location like a factory farm, it can have a big impact on the local weather. When released back to the earth’s surface in the form of rain, ammonia is toxic to water-bound animals and fertile soil.

The harmful effects of factory farming don’t stop there. Air quality is constantly polluted due to harmful compounds like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane. Methane released into the atmosphere is what increases the earth’s greenhouse effect. Extra methane in the atmosphere traps more heat and warms the earth, leading to global warming. In the U.S. alone, methane gas emissions released from factory farms make up 20% of all methane emissions. Globally, animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than all transportation equipment worldwide. This means driving your car is less harmful to the earth than being a carnivore. Two pounds of beef used for those cookouts and taco nights negatively affect the environment as much as driving a car 155 miles. Similarly, if Americans substituted just one meal a week for a vegetarian meal, it would be like taking 500 thousand gas-powered cars off the road. While methane isn’t the most prevalent greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, it is 84 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Global warming is ruining the Earth and factory farming is contributing to the mess, so why not eat locally and do away with mass production of meat?

Aside from pollution, factory farming destroys habitats when forests are cut down to make space for grazing. Globally, 30% of land surface is used for agriculture and 70% of that is used to graze livestock. Even though farming vegetables is more sustainable, the world demands meat. In the U.S., over 260 acres have been cut down to create cropland to feed animals or to farm them. Cows are the most land-intensive livestock to produce, yet they are the most eaten animal in the U.S. Grazing livestock is the number-one reason for plant species extinction. Cattle ranching is responsible for 80% of the rainforest that is now deforested, where thousands of plant species flourish.

Animal Cruelty

Factory farming is all about the masses. It focuses on a large number of animals in a small space to maximize yield. They are seen as commodities and exploited for profit. Animals are often injected with steroids to make more pounds of meat. These mutilations can be painful and cause animals to grow unnaturally. In the case of chickens, they are given steroids and their bodies become too big for their feet to support. Their legs break, and they live the rest of their lives unable to walk. Animals also are injected with antibiotics that help them survive in the cramped and unsanitary environment. It is common that animals like chickens and pigs will be kept in a dark warehouse and never see the light of day until they are loaded for slaughtering. You may think your burger is coming from a farm with a red barn and green rolling hills, but in reality your meal was forced into a confined space and endured abusive practices at the environment’s expense. By the time they are large enough for the slaughterhouse, they are worn down and sick from producing milk or eggs. The transportation is no break either, as they will be crowded and travel for days through all weather without food or water. Once they are finally at the slaughterhouse, they often have their throats cut while still conscious. Specifically, cows remain conscious when they are skinned and hacked apart. Aside from the horrible animal cruelty that occurs within the factory farming industry, the environment is taking a huge hit as the multi-billion dollar companies collect the check.

Your Health

Still not convinced? If you don’t do it for our Earth or its animals, then do it for you! Contrary to popular opinion, red meat is not healthy. Reducing your meat intake or cutting it altogether decreases your risk for heart disease, which is the number-one killer in America. Reducing meat also limits your risk of cancer. Processed meat is directly linked to colorectal cancer. In contrast, eating veggies is a natural mood and energy booster like working out. Also, vegetarians outlive meat eaters by 6 to 12 years. Which do you value more, eating a burger or your life? Eliminating meat one day a week can help you keep healthier habits, and you’ll crave fried meat and processed meats less. Meat is not the only way to get protein in your diet either, so don’t let your family and friend tell you its not obtainable. There are so many substitutes these days that can satisfy without hurting your heath. Challenge yourself to start with just one day—one day that you are conscious of what you are consuming and why you are avoiding processed meat.