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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

I would like to start off by stating that everyone is going at their own pace in regards to their relationship with meat consumption. To some, that may mean going completely vegan, while to others that may mean simply cutting down on meat for one meal a week. Either way, a difference is being made, and I don’t think that anyone should be shamed for the lifestyle they choose to engage in. This article is simply meant to display some facts about the meat industry that not everyone may know in hopes of broadening perspectives and opinions about the implications of meat consumption.

1. Ethics

Did you know that most animals we consume (for example, over 99% of chickens) are raised in factory farms? Factory farms are large, industrialized farms where animals are confined together in indoor spaces. Within these farms, animals have been shown to face conditions such as overcrowding, antibiotic misuse, growth hormone injections, and poor waste conditions. However, many consumers may not be aware of the conditions animals are facing in these settings. Simply searching up video footage of animal mistreatment in factory farms is a valuable way to understand the implications of what goes on to get the meat that so many people consume to their plates. Moreover, researching which brands of animal products (spoiler alert: it may be more than you think) rely on factory farming to mass produce their products can be an important thing to consider.

2. Environment

Another factor contributing to why some individuals choose to consume less meat is related to the environmental implications that go with meat production. Livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, largely because methane produced from cows is a serious environmental pollutant. The fact that over half of all greenhouse gas emissions come from a singular industry is quite a staggering and eye-opening statistic. Moreover, many people in the world face a shortage of food, while many of these resources are instead being used to feed animals. For example, the US could feed 800 million people with the grain the country currently used to feed livestock. It’s interesting to see how the crisis of global hunger links to the meat industry. Plant protein production, in comparison to the production of animal protein such as livestock, requires ⅛ the amount of fossil fuel energy. Thus, choosing to consume alternatives to animal products can be seen to have positive environmental implications in various ways.

3. Health

Recently, the World Cancer Research Fund released a statement that exposure to consuming red and processed meats increases the risk of cancer in humans. This is a shocking statement, seeing how these products have become common staples in the standard American diet. It’s important to consider how these everyday food items could be contributing to serious, life-threatening health conditions. Heightened meat consumption has also been shown to be associated with a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. Thus, it may be worth considering alternatives to consuming these products. Plenty of meat alternatives exist that provide adequate amounts of protein, calcium, iron, fiber, and other essential nutrients with less of the health risk attached. When added to the previously stated ethical and environmental considerations, it may make the idea of consuming less meat all the more lucrative.