Bacon is delicious. I’ll admit that. But it’s also fatty, salty, and almost devoid of any important nutrients. In addition to other red meat products, bacon is an epidemic in our society; we consume billions and billions of pounds of beef and pork each year. Yet our meat-heavy diet has recently been in the spotlight for causing a variety of health hazards, including heart disease, diabetes, and possibly several cancers.
1. Your Own Health
According to a Harvard Medical School study, people who consume large amounts of red meat in their lifetime are more likely to have shorter lifespans. This may also be because heavy meat eaters tend to weigh more, exercise less, and smoke more.
The U.S. is at the top of the list when it comes to beef consumption. We consume roughly 54 pounds of beef per capita, compared to the Congo, which consumes less than 1 pound of beef per capita. There is such a strong link between heavy meat consumption and shorter lifespans, but we still have barely decreased our consumption patterns.
Over the last 11 years, total U.S. beef consumption has decreased by a mere 8%. At least it hasn’t increased! Completely cutting red meat out of one’s diet isn’t a suitable prescription either (I don’t believe total deprivation is successful). However, cutting back on how frequently you consume red meat would be a smart choice for your health.
Replacing beef, pork, and other processed meats with high protein options on a daily basis could possibly be life-extending. Whole grains, legumes, fish, nuts, and poultry are protein options that are not only healthier, but also have less of an environmental impact. It’s easier to go green in your diet then you think. New routines produce new habits which in turn become your new way.
2. Your Neighbor’s Health
Globally, 1 in 9 people do not get enough to eat (that’s about 805 million people), and roughly 98% of them live in developing nations. That problem could likely be solved if citizens in developed nations cut back on red meat consumption and lessened the demand for it.
Astoundingly, the 7 billion livestock in the U.S. consume five times more grain than that which is directly eaten by the U.S. population; if all this grain was fed to people instead, it would feed almost 800 million people.
Going green in your diet (eating partially vegetarian) could help alleviate world hunger by decreasing the demand for beef and allocating more grain and resources for human consumption instead.
3. Your Planet’s Health
Red meat consumption, and particularly beef production, has the largest impact on the wellbeing of our planet. When people think to minimize their carbon footprint, they usually first consider the influence of their car, or other means of transportation, to be the primary direct contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Amazingly, the real culprit is food. People should actually look towards the food they’re consuming if they want to be more environmentally cognizant.
A new study reveals that it would be better to give up red meat (mostly beef) than your car if you want to cut carbon emissions. The production of beef requires 28 times more land, 11 times more water, and produces 5 times more GHG emissions than poultry or pork production.
The comparison between beef and grains is even more extreme; 160 times more land and 11 times more GHGs. Cattle production is hard on the earth’s resources mostly due to the fact that cattle are incredibly inefficient when converting feed into energy.
Additionally, pesticides and fertilizers are huge influencers of beef production because it takes large amounts of these substances (as well as enormous sums of fuel and water) to grow the corn and soybean meal typically fed to cattle.
These fertilizers also generate nitrous oxide as a byproduct, which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.The list of environmental catastrophes caused by cattle production goes on and on (deforestation, methane output, and water pollution to name a few).
If more people were aware of these environmental problems, I think our overall meat consumption habits would change. Plant-based diets are evidently healthier for your own wellbeing, as well as for society and the planet.Featured Image: Vegetables like tomatoes, greens, and legumes provide vast amounts of necessary nutrients, and also benefit the planet. Image via PHG.