Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why you should consider going Meatless once a week

The concept of Meatless Monday’s has been around since WWII when rationing meat to feed our troops and save resources was needed for war efforts. Americans were proud to do their part to help out.  Recently, Meatless Monday has become popular again due to concerns about carbon emissions, fossil fuel and water usage to bring meat to the consumer’s table. If Americans simply reduce their meat consumption by adopting Meatless Mondays, it appears that we could save billions of pounds of carbon emissions each year and help to reduce global warming.
          Carbon emissions contribute to global warming, and mass agriculture and feedlot meat production are major contributors in creating these emissions.  In the 20th century, the size and scope of agriculture has changed drastically over past years with the introduction of large scale farming with bigger machinery combined with man made (fossil fuel) fertilizers and pesticides.  
Michael Pollan says in his Farmer in Chief letter that in the 1940’s the U.S. produced 
“2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one [nation] that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food” (1). 

With limited fossil-fuels at our disposal, and concern for global warming, we must make a change in how we view, and produce the calories that we eat. According to Roger Segleken from Cornell University, protein from grain-fed animals needs over eight times the amount of fossil-fuel needed to produce plant protein. With that one fact in mind, Americans can make a big difference by reducing their meat consumption once a week.  Plant based protein, fruits and vegetables can provide all the nutrients and the variety needed for a healthy diet.  With a little ingenuity and attention to our choices, Americans can reduce their own grain-fed animal consumption while satisfying their taste buds, their wallets and their waistlines with a plant based diet one day per week.

          Meat production has a carbon footprint of over 18% of total greenhouse emissions in the U.S., more than all the cars and SUV’s combined (enveg). Considering America’s love affair with newer, bigger, better and faster automobiles, it is shocking that the food we eat could possibly take even more energy to produce than our cars use. While some researchers have debunked the way these statistics are written (Page) and likening them to each other is like comparing  as ‘apples to oranges’, we can all agree that fruit is still fruit in this instance, and the energy needed to create a pound of grain-fed meat is too expensive of a price to pay with our environment.  No matter how these statistics are minutely computed, without a doubt, we can all accept that we should not be paying such a high carbon footprint price to raise and deliver meat to our tables while there are so many choices better for our personal well being and our Earth’s environmental health.
          Former vice president, Al Gore, famous for his climate change movie, calls Meatless Monday one of the top 12 things you can do now for a better world (climatecrisis). Cutting meat out of our diets entirely would reduce carbon emissions by over 5,000 pounds per capita.  While trying to convert the entire nation to Vegetarianism might be an extreme challenge to undertake to reduce global warming, promoting and following a Meatless Monday regime once a week would not, and could make a tremendous difference in our environment.  With over 310 million people in the United States today (census), even reducing every individual’s consumption by one meatless day would account for reduction of carbon emissions over 712 pounds per person, and when multiplied by 310 million people, save our fragile environment over 220 billion pounds of needless emissions.
          Grain-fed livestock consumes over 60% of American raised corn and 40% of our soybeans. It takes six to ten pounds of grain to produce a single pound of beef in the U.S.  (enveg). David Pemintel, professor of Ecology at Cornell as saying "If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million” (Segelken).  In a world where people still routinely die of hunger in Third World countries and many others are malnourished, consuming this amount of grains via the meat we eat, seems like a shameful, over consuming way of life.  It’s a very high price to pay to get meat onto our tables every day of the week.
Could cutting meat out of your diet one day per week really help to save the planet?  While most Americans know to use CFL light bulbs in their homes and to turn off lights when they are not in use to reduce their energy consumption, Meatless Monday is still somewhat unknown as a way to reduce your carbon footprint.   Talking with your friends and family about the amount of energy needed to get one pound of meat to your table, and the wonderful savings and health benefits you personally experience with meatless eating one day per week, can go a long way to create awareness on this great program to save our planet.

Works Cited
"12 Tips - Climate Crisis." Home - Climate Crisis. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <>.
"7 Clear-Cut Reasons Why Meat Is Bad for the Environment | EnVeg." EnVeg | Saving the Environment One Meal at a Time. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <>.
Page, Lewis. "'Go Veggie to save the Planet' UN, EU Plans Debunked • The Register." The Register: Sci/Tech News for the World. 23 Mar. 2010. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <>.
Pollan. "Farmer in Chief." Web.
Segelken, Roger. "Livestock Farming Method Criticized." Cornell Chronicle Online. Web. 09 Mar. 2011. <>.
"U.S. & World Population Clock." Census Bureau Home Page. Web. 09 Mar. 2011.

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