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The Whys and Hows of Reducing Your Meat Consumption

This is not an article shaming those who eat meat or those who raise animals for consumption. This is also not an article that believes being vegan is a suitable lifestyle for everyone. This is an article detailing the environmental impacts of large-scale animal farming. While I personally choose to not consume any meat, I understand being vegetarian or vegan is not a realistic expectation for everyone in this world. Whether it’s cultural, economic, or personal reasons, we cannot assume our lifestyle is meant for everyone. But, the current rate of meat assumption is not sustainable for our planet.

In order to maintain the increasing demand, industrialized animal agriculture seeks to produce the most amount of meat, utilizing growth hormones and excess caloric feed to push its livestock to unhealthy weights. Industrialized animal agriculture and animal factory farming are both general terms given to the same concept: animals are products for mass production no matter the cost, environmental or ethical. Think Food, Inc. and similar documentaries featuring the disturbing footage from inside slaughterhouses. The horrors begin long before the animals even reach the conveyor belts.

(Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

The industrialized animal agriculture industry is the root of a dispropriate amount of environmental pressure than other food industries, including deforestation and pollution. Agriculture places a huge stress on our forests as farmers need this area to grow feed and to raise livestock, estimated to be the cause of up to 80% of deforestation worldwide (Garlow). It’s not happening in our backyards but on massive scales in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, often in rainforest areas that house thousands of species. Decrease in biodiversity and soil erosion are just a few of the issues created by large scale deforestation.

In smaller-scale farming operations, there is a healthier balance between animal and land. Traditional farmers know how to manage the excessive waste created by their livestock in order to replenish the nutrients in the land. Factory farming, the main focus of this article, cares less about this balance and more about pumping out as much product as possible. Often, this results in confining their animals in cramped indoor spaces. Where does all of their waste go, you ask? Piling high on the lands right outside of these indoor facilities. Excessive manure will runoff into local waterways, posing public health concerns, and will release harmful gases into the atmosphere. Out of all the man-made emissions globally, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% (The Humane Society of the United States).

The previous environmental issues are just the tip of the iceberg. The impacts industrialized animal agriculture has are vast and detrimental, and we must begin changing our lifestyle habits and our ways of production in order to slow down this destruction. Purchasing meat and other animal products from locally-sourced, small-scale traditional farmers is one way to live more sustainably. While these products might be more expensive than picking up a package of meat from a grocery store carrying large-scale meat businesses, your money is going towards keeping an ethical company in business all while not supporting these large corporations.

Another tactic is reducing your meat consumption altogether. This can be in the form of “meatless mondays”, where you don’t include meat in your diet for one day out of the week, or opting for plant-based meals whenever it is convenient. For instance, challenge yourself to order a veggie or black bean burger when they are on the menu rather than a beef patty. Maybe the next time you order your favorite salad, you ask for no chicken. When I started cutting back on my meat intake until it was eventually none, I began to notice how unnecessarily our society puts meat into our dishes. Consider delicious mac-n-cheese, does it really need that layer of bacon?

A lot of the meat-eaters I know instantly knock alternative dishes to meat. Veggie burgers? Disgusting. Soy-based chicken patties? Never. Meatless meatballs? Ridiculous. While these alternatives will never taste 100% like meat (because they aren’t), many of them taste better and are healthier than actual meat. In fact, many of these products actually contain more protein than the meat version. A search on Google can bring up thousands of results for easy, homemade vegetarian meals. It is possible to get your daily nutrients from plant-based foods, I promise.

Being vegetarian on and off for many years has allowed me to grow my perspective on this topic from both sides. Yes, I see the benefit of eating meat. It’s often cheaper, more convenient, and tastes really, really good at times. On the other hand, I feel healthier and more conscientious with a plant-based diet. I actively am always thinking about where my food comes from. Additionally, cutting meat has forced me to step outside of my comfort. Of course I would love to automatically order chicken tenders wherever I go, but now I think about what salads are offered or if there will be a unique flavor spin on a veggie burger. As vegetarian and veganism are on the rise, restaurants catering to solely these diets are popping up. They have the most interesting menus with foods I would never have tried myself without going to one.

The intention of this article was not to bash those who eat meat in any quantity but to raise awareness of the impacts of such choices. Hopefully, some useful information was included to at least peak interest into researching more about this topic. Supporting large-scale factory farming is a decision we have control over in order to slow down the harm to our earth.

 

Sources:

“An HSUS Report: The Impact of Industrialized Animal Agriculture on the Environment”. Retrieved from: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-impact-of-industr…

Garlow, Ariel. “This is How Animal Agriculture Causes Deforestation”. This is How Animal Agriculture Causes Deforestation. One Green Planet. 5 Jun. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2018.

Allison Hine

Murray State '20

Allison is a psychology major at Murray State University and can be easily spotted across campus by her purple hair. As a St. Louis native, she loves Ted Drewes and will certainly ask where you went to high school. She's been riding horses for over eight years and hopes to someday afford a horse of her own. But, her Pitbull, Piccolo, will do for now. When she's not talking about her dog, Allison can usually be found binging the latest shows on Hulu and Netflix (her favorites at the moment are Station 19 and Glee (again)).
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