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Last week, I met an 11-year-old who asked me if I eat honey. He had just learned that I’m vegan, and he was curious. I, on the other hand, was amazed. When I first became vegan over 20 years ago, the questions I got were more along the lines of: What’s vegan? Do you eat chicken? You don’t drink milk, but you still eat cheese, right?
In 2017, being vegan is so common and mainstream, that even 11-year-olds in families that aren’t vegan, or even vegetarian, have more informed questions. Though the whole world isn’t going vegan, a lot more people are making the choice to cut way back on their meat consumption.
Here are some of the big reasons they’re doing it, and why you might want to eat less meat, too.
4 Reasons To Eat Less Meat
The word is out that meat consumption contributes to the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Millions of Americans are affected by these conditions personally, and millions more have a loved one struggling with them.
These diseases are debilitating, expensive, and scary. But Americans are catching on that avoiding meat all together – or a lot – is a great way to significantly improve your chances of preventing such health problems.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Plants are filled with the vital nutrients we need to survive and thrive. They are our fuel. Making them the focus of our diet fills us with the power our bodies need everyday. Eating meat on the other hand, can fill us up before we’ve had a chance to give our body those essential nutrients.
Rip Esselstyn, a former tri-athlete and fire fighter, attributes his strength and stamina to eating exclusively plant-based foods. The health benefits were so clear in him that he was able to convince his fellow fire fighters to give it a try, and they all improved their health together.
Rip is far from the only vegan athlete. For many years, Americans have been fed the myth that meat is needed in order to be strong. But there’s now a greater awareness that it’s simply not the case. Our bodies can thrive on plants, too.
In addition to the long term benefits of a plant-based diet, it is known that contaminated meat can have extremely harmful consequences. Food-borne bacteria such as E-coli, can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.
Even for those people who haven’t experienced food poisoning personally, it’s important to consider health reasons should one to decide to eat less meat.
People used to joke about cow farts, but a lot more humans are catching on that the factory farming industry is creating A LOT of greenhouse gases. There’s data supporting that meat and dairy consumption has an enormous impact on the planet.
Forgoing a pound of beef is the equivalent of taking one car off the road. It takes 500 gallons of water to grow one pound of chicken meat. That amount could be used to make three loaves of bread or five pounds of potatoes, creating a smaller carbon footprint, while using less water and feeding more people.
And of course, it takes more land to raise crops to feed animals (which also need land), than it does to simply raise crops to feed humans. Caring about the environment may have once been thought of as something only hippies and loopy liberals did, but most people are realizing that all of our choices impact the environment – and us.
For those of us who plan to live on this Earth for many more years – and hope that our children will also be able to – why not try to eat less meat?
3.) Quality and Cruelty
There is a greater awareness these days that pesticides and overuse of antibiotics are detrimental to human health. But eating sprayed food isn’t the only way that pesticides enter our body. Going to the doctor isn’t the only way we consume antibiotics.
In order to meet consumer demand, animals are raised in deplorable conditions. According to the USDA, over 8.5 billion broiler chickens are raised in America each year. In order to raise that many chickens, they are kept in very, very close quarters.
Some people are bothered by the fact that the birds have their beaks cut off so that they don’t peck each other, and that their toes grow over their cages because they never get to move. But even looking at it from purely a human cost-benefit standpoint, when raised in such close quarters, animals are highly susceptible to sickness.
So they’re given antibiotics (note that this doesn’t just apply to chickens). When people eat the animals, they’re also consuming the antibiotics. Farm animals are also carriers of pesticides and genetically modified crops. Those get passed along to the humans that eat them.
Many people are now aware that restaurants are using “meat glue” (transglutaminase) when serving meat. Awareness of this information, along with the exposes on the cruelty that is happening to the animals while they’re being raised for the meat or dairy industry, has turned off a lot of consumers.
It’s hard for many people to be a witness to that kind of cruelty and give it a stamp of approval by participating in the process. They find that eating factory-farmed meat is contrary to their values. So many folks decide to just eat less meat, OR switch to meat from local farmers.
4.) It’s Easy
In just a few decades, Americans have come to think of the abundance of eating meat in the Standard American Diet (SAD) as normal. But throughout our human history, there has never been as much meat consumption as there is now in America.
These days, the average American eats about 7,000 animals in a lifetime. But before the 20th century, most of our food came from plants. After a period of a meat-based diet, there are many foods available now for people who like the taste and texture, but want to eat less meat.
Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, even refers to his products as meat – they’re just NOT made from the meat of animals: they’re meat of plants.
But plant-based meat and dairy replacements, though in many flavors and varieties, aren’t the only way to cut back on consuming animal products. There are initiatives such as ‘Meat Out Mondays’ that can help guide beginners smoothly to a healthier lifestyle. There’s also an abundance of cookbooks offering delicious plant-based recipes.
It’s even common for food bloggers that aren’t specifically promoting a vegan diet to offer delicious meat-free recipes because the demand is there, the benefits are clear, and the flavors are extraordinary.
It isn’t just animal lovers who cutting back on meat consumption. While there are certainly vegetarians that can recognize the cuteness of a cow as easily as their adorable pet puppy, many people are giving up meat for human-centered reasons.
They want to be healthier, stronger, fitter, and live in a cleaner world. Whatever your reason is, you won’t regret your decision to eat less meat.