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Tracy Hepler Headshot

The Beef With Meat

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In my first blog post on this site, I created a green guide for the twenty somethings out there. What one of the readers appropriately noticed was that I made no mention of meat eating behavior and its effect on global warming. It was a mistake I made and a mistake that is commonly made when discussing the environment. Most of us (including environmentalists) tend to purposely ignore the role of livestock production because we deeply enjoy eating meat. However, we cannot stay ignorant forever. As one becomes more and more educated in all things green, you become aware of some startling facts. One of those happens to be the fact that livestock production (aka raising animals for food consumption) creates more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. It's hard to fathom that a group of animals creates more emissions than our planes, trains, trucks and cars. But when you think about all the energy it takes to raise those animals, production energy for their feed, their land, their water...all of the sudden the numbers begin to add up.

In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report actually found that the raising of livestock accounted for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions for the world (compared that to the 11% that is created by our transportation). In fact, it takes eight times the amount of fossil fuel energy to produce a single protein of animal product, compared to a single plant based protein. According to this report, meat production is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases.

In addition the production and raising of livestock uses 30% of the Earth's arable land for pasture, an additional 33% of the land to grow and cultivate their feed and 5000 gallons of water to produce a single pound of meat (compare that to the 25 gallons of water that is needed to produce one pound of wheat). Livestock also contributes substantial amounts of pollution to the water supply due to their manure, antibiotics and the pesticides used to produce their food.

So now that you know, you don't have to feel terrible about enjoying a hamburger or favorite cut of meat. Just learn to eat meat less. One commitment we can all make is to join in the "Meatless Mondays" movement. On Meatless Mondays we are all asked to replace our meat meals with vegetarian meals for the day. It's a pretty easy change to make especially when you consider all the delicious recipes that can be made using pasta, soups, salads and veggies that are all considered vegetarian. According to Environmental Defense, "If every American replaced a chicken meal per week with a vegetarian one, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads." By participating in this movement you can make a simple, but impacting change that can help the environment and your own health (think lower cholesterol).

Want to Get Involved?

Learn more about "Meatless Mondays" and what you can personally do at www.meatlessmonday.com.

Expand your mind and read this interesting article from Mark Bittman in the New York Times, appropriately titled "Rethinking the Meat Guzzler".

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