MEET Your MEAT
Two years ago, at Rockpool restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, I paid $200 for a beautiful cut of wagyu steak. It was a medium rare masterpiece that I can still taste to this day. In my hometown of Chicago, meat is an occasion, a pastime, an experience even. The amount of steakhouses probably outnumbers the amount of firehouses and police stations. Maybe even grocery stores. In other words, we love our meat. But we don’t think much about it, at least not past how best to cook it (medium rare – obviously). So how much do we know about it? Not as much as we should. Allow me to introduce you, reader, meet meat.
From your run-of-the-mill, grocery-store-packaged ham, to your sausages and hotdogs, your processed meats contain high levels of nitrosamines. Look that up. They’re carcinogenic compounds (the most carcinogenic agent in cigarette smoke) – and you’re consuming them at will. More and more research is being conducted today that show ties between meat consumption and some forms of cancer. Breast, Colon, Prostate and other cancers are all proving higher in populations with high meat consumption. This isn’t particularly cutting edge information either. You can find evidence of this yourself pretty easily. Sites and organizations like nutritionfacts.org, forksoverknives.com, and The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are just some of the easily accessible fountains of knowledge. The one thing that is new, though, is that the USDA is finally warning the public and advising that we cut our meat consumption for our health. On March 12, 2012, two Harvard studies’ results were published. The results are in (four years ago people!), and the studies found that “Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total Cardiovascular Disease, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.” Yeah, for real. The importance of this result is not simply the tie between red meat (which by the way, actually includes lamb, beef, pork, veal and more), but of equal significance, the mention of other healthy protein sources. As a vegan, and new one at that, when friends, family, hell – even strangers find out I’m now following a vegan diet, the first question I get is, “Where do you get your protein?” Interesting. When I ate meat, dairy, eggs and the like, no one ever asked about my vitamin intake. Concerned strangers never worried themselves about my calcium levels, or lack of vitamin D. No one asked about my cholesterol, sugars, iron or about my diet at all. Yet, when I didn’t eat animals anymore, they looked at me as though I may snap in half, faint or disintegrate before their very eyes! Well, it’s only been three months, but I’m still here (phew!). Why am I still here? I thought I needed meat for protein, milk for calcium, and cheese for quality of life right? Wrong. As the study implies in its results, there are other, healthier options out there, and if you want to increase your chances of seeing grandchildren, I’d look those up too. If you’re still not convinced about the advantages of cutting your meat intake (or ideally eliminating it), I urge you. Do some of your own research. And when you do, make sure the people reporting the facts have no ties to big agro-business. You’ll thank me later. Better yet, your grandkids will.
Ok, so say your ok with your health. Either you’re certain that you’re in fantastic shape (all you marathon runners) or you’re ok with heading to an early grave and never wanted kids anyway (looking at you, smokers). Fine, that’s your prerogative but what about the rest of us? What about what that meat is doing to the world? The planet we live on, Earth, you know, the one and only home we have? Here’s what. To start, cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. PER DAY. Methane gas traps heat 21 times more than CO2, and reducing methane emissions would benefit the planet almost immediately. You know what we’re talking about here, right? Cow farts. The developed world, with all its modern advances (you know, technology, air travel, medical discoveries) is being brought down, literally, by farts. C’mon guys. And it’s not just the farts. Animal agriculture also produces a lot of shit. Seriously, shit. Where does that shit go? Our oceans, that’s where, and it’s the leading cause of ocean dead zones. Shall I go on? Your average high consuming omnivore can save 1.4 TONNES of CO2 emissions per year by just removing beef. By going vegetarian, that same omnivore saves 1.6 TONNES of CO2 emissions per year. What about water consumption? 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce just 1 lb of beef. Just. One. Pound. That one gets me every time. A few years ago, I worked as a nanny for one of the nicest families I’ve ever met. They were conscious about their water usage, hanging clothes vs using a dryer, short showers, the whole thing, but they were omnivores. That’s not a huge surprise, and at the time I was too. One of my favourite meals to make them (particularly, because one of the kids said mine was the best) was spaghetti bolognaise. I know, not exactly Master Chef over here, but my cooking skills have never been anything to right home about. The point is, for a family of 6 plus myself, I would buy about 1.5 kilos of lean beef mince for this one dinner. And for the ones doing the math (don’t strain yourself), 1 Kg = 2.2 lbs. Dayum. Am I right? I made that dish weekly! And every time I did, we consumed over 5,000 gallons of water!
Besides the obvious fact that consuming meat is ending another being’s life, it’s hurting your health and killing the planet. I just thought you should get re-acquainted.
An Pan, P., Qi Sun, M. S., Adam M. Bernstein, M. S., Matthias B. Schulze, D., JoAnn E. Manson, M. D., Meir J. Stampfer, M. D., et al. (2012). Red Meat Consumption and Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine , 5.
Miller, K. (2015, 10 27). Yahoo Health. Retrieved 1 28, 2016, from https://www.yahoo.com/health/processed-meat-isnt-just-bacon-and-sausage-194334919.html
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