Even after reading Michael Pollan’s books describing the obscene ways much of our “food” gets to our plates, or after watching the stream of heart-breaking images and unnerving statistics displayed throughout the film Food Inc., many still find the plunge of giving up meat to be oh-so incredibly difficult.
It’s almost undeniable at this point, with so many expositional investigative journalism pieces having been published unmasking the topic, that a balanced vegetarian lifestyle is healthier for both our bodies, the planet, and the other various creatures that inhabit it. Research has shown that vegetarians tend to have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and many cancers, and tend to be slimmer throughout their longer-than-average lives.
Yet, even with this knowledge, for some, shedding the meat is as difficult as shedding the covers to get out of bed on a cold, early morning. It just seems so uninviting and painful to do so. Maybe it’s the taste, or the memories and connections it evokes, or simply the oblivion to the millions of stimulating vegetarian ingredients available, but whatever it is, most Americans just cannot seem to chuck the chicken from their diet. According to a study done by Vegetarian Times Magazine, as little as 3.2% of the U.S. population of adults are completely meat-free. That leaves a remaining 96.8% of the population delving into some meaty dishes.
Those meat-filled meals contribute to more than a substantial amount of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the raising of livestock for food accounts for as much as 20% of greenhouse gas emissions each year. This makes sense if you look at the impacts of just cows alone. Every time a cow needs to take a #2 or let one rip, they release methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And let’s not forget how much land is set aside to feed these shackled animals. Almost 50% of U.S. corn goes to feeding animals, and as much as 77% of soybeans you may see covering the fields are being sent to the mouths of livestock to fatten those babies up.
With the health and environmental impacts being exhibited, it seems worthy that the vegetarian-diet can at least be considered without having meat-eaters automatically conjure up negative connotations of those “hippie, health freak, boring” vegetarians in their minds every time they encounter a meat-free fellow. If you cherish meat and don’t think that you yourself are ready to completely call it quits with flesh, even after the eye-opening education, at least consider showing some respect for those who do. And even if you don’t think you’ll ever travel down the path of being a vegetarian, why not at least consider cutting back on your meat consumption, both for your health and the health of our mother Earth…even if it’s just for a day? The simple act of cutting back on meat really doesn’t prove to be that difficult, yet it can make an incredible difference for you and the environment. This leads me to introduce to you, my readers, Meatless Mondays.
I’m sure many of you have heard of Meatless Mondays and may even have made a commitment to follow the initiative’s proposal, but for those who haven’t, listen up. The Meatless Monday initiative calls for one to eliminate meat from their diet every Monday. One day a week doesn’t sound so hard does it, and just this one day can do wonders. According to Bloomberg Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the founders of the Meatless Mondays Movement, if all Americans skipped their daily 8-ounces of meat just one day a week, we could save more greenhouse gas emissions in one year than if we quit traveling by cars, planes, trains, and ships combined. That’s a lot of emissions.
There’s really few reasons not to give this proposal a try. One day a week is almost sure to positively impact the health of your body and your pocket. Eating meat-free doesn’t have to be expensive. Beans and grains are cheaper than any steak you’ll find at the store. Consider treating each Monday as a holiday, an easy way to make-over those no-good Mondays and transform them into days you can actually look forward to. In my next post, I’ll discuss some easy ways to make Meatless Mondays fun and exciting. In the meantime, consider becoming part of the Meatless Monday crew.
Trust me, vegetarian certainly doesn’t equate to boring….so you can immediately cross that off of the list of excuses you may have forming in your head not to try going meat-free on Mondays. Think of it as an adventure.