THE HABIT OF EATING MEAT MAY BE HURTING US (AND OUR WORLD) (ISSUE 120)
By Diane Gold
The habit of eating meat is passed down from one generation to another, in most societies. Throughout the years, a symbol of abundance has become the finest steak dinner, so much so that, at one point, the overproduction of uric acid crystals between the joints known as gout, got the nickname “disease of the rich” because wealth often meant increased intake of animal proteins.
What is now becoming common knowledge, or is such to the Millenial generation and after, is that hunger and thirst could be contained if we increased our plant-based nutrition consumption; we could reduce many chronic diseases if we reduced or removed meat from our diet; our water footprint to farm livestock for food is sending the world economies on a downward spiral of water emergencies; especially in the latest generation, people are questioning whether it is ethical to eat meat (which could includes but is not limited to beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, bees).
This article looks at this global habit in relation to agribusiness, the pharmaceutical industry and education.
What would happen if the money spent on livestock feed were spent on growing extra food for people who needed food?
According to PETA:
1) Using an acre of land to raise cattle for slaughter produces 20 pounds of meat. This same acre could produce 365 pounds of soybeans, 17 times more food.
2) The resource to produce 1 pound of meat would produce 13 pounds of grain. That would feed an entire community, rather than 1 family.
3) This year, 7100 children will die from a hunger-related disease per day. That’s 2.6 million for the year. We can help hunger by replacing our meat habit with some form of plant-based nutrition.
The use of antibiotics in livestock production has created highly resistant strains of bacteria (super bugs) which pass by touch to workers, from water supply contaminated by infected animal feces and from uncooked infected meat.
Because of the power of the food and pharmaceutical industries, the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), unlike the European Union, has never banned antibiotic use in animal production. It did, however, implement a regulation that asked the farm industry voluntarily to phase out the use of certain antibiotics.
For those not calculating, if antibiotics are used in animal feed, the drug companies get paid for their drugs and farmers get to fatten up their livestock more quickly from the antibiotics so they reduce feeding expense. This translates to a less healthy environment, chemically altered food and reduced health.
It is important to note that most super bugs that affect humans are obtained from overuse of antibiotics in humans.
2) PLANT-BASED NUTRITION
There is much evidence that plant-based eating reduces obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol. Therefore, what about replacing the meat habit with plant-based foods for health and environment?
Check out more interesting facts here: http://warriorsofweight.com/6-great-reasons-for-plant-based-nutrition.
The statistics around the amount of water used to produce food are so unreliable since circumstances are always changing and it is a very tricky subject. It is true that the amount of water used for vegetables and livestock vary from one measure to another.
To produce 1 head of broccoli, 5.4 gallons of water are needed.
To produce 1 tomato, 3 gallons are needed.
According to the journal, Ecosystems, a study by M. Mekonnen and A. Hoekstra from U of Twente, Netherlands, beef uses 4 million gallons of water per ton. That means just under 40,000 gallons for a pound of meat. To break it down further, the study looked at the amount of “blue” water used. For veggies, 5.6 gallons of blue water is used to produce a pound. 20 gallons is used to produce a pound of fruit. And about 72 gallons are used to produce a pound of beef. These figures vary greatly, depending on the further breakdown within the category.
According to Ask.com, the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at the South Dakota University measured that 1 cow may yield 84 pounds of steak quality meat, which means, more or less, 225 6 oz. meals or 336 4 oz. meals. The same amount of water produces 23,000,000 heads of broccoli.
And 70% of the water used in livestock industry is to grow animal feed; in California, this means alfalfa for cows. The sad thing is that, even though California is experiencing a water shortage, farmers are exporting alfalfa hay to Asia. (Show me the money!)
According to the Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations, 70% of land that has been deforested in Latin America, which means, in part, the Amazon, is used for livestock grazing. The expense of the food for livestock is what makes the least sustainable sense.
THE ETHICS OF EATING MEAT
I have had lively debate with a local doctor. He talks about how plants have feelings, or certainly, that they react to stimuli; and I talk about how I believe plants yield to us but should be thanked for their sacrifice. Certainly, we both agree that hurting animals is wrong.
In my opinion, if vegan food is available to me; it is my duty to eat it. Were I in a North country with limited vegetation, would I eat fish or four-legged animals? I would, because it’s my duty to self-sustain; I would give thanks for the animal’s life I used for mine, the way I do with the plants I eat.
A fascinating fact is that Inuits in Greenland have low heart disease. They eat primarily proteins and fats from salmon, whale and seal with no sugars and no carbs. This statistic may come from their Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, which is balanced at 1:1, unlike in the West where we are Omega-6 (inflammatory) rich.
The habit of eating meat is like any other repetitive pattern we have. When we think about it, we may choose to change it in order to enhance our health, eat in a way that will help stop hunger, be examples of saving water so there will be some left for our grandchildren and modify our ethical actions.
Instead of blindly consuming food, just because it tastes good to us, we might want to consider the consequences of our actions. Not following in the footsteps of the past generations, we might want to evaluate the newest scientific evidence about food and nutrition. We might choose to realize that the dairy and meet industries have vast sums of money to promote the idea of eating meat or consuming dairy. Big media are friends with big dairy, big meat, big poultry and big pharma. These relationships may be cause for us to do our own research on whether the habit of eating meat needs a complete turnaround in 2014.
Here are several action steps that may serve all of us.
1) Check out the amount of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids you consume on an average day, shooting for 4 (Omega-6) : 1(Omega-3). The National Institute Of Science recommends a ratio of 10:1 in the United States. In my opinion, that’s because they are friends with agribusiness producers who make vegetable oils, sugars and other foods that imbalance the ratio. Other countries typically say 4:1 is OK, new evidence points to 1:1 being ideal.
2) Research a few hunger statistics, and consider replacing 1 meat meal weekly with a plant-based meal. You can go to the PETA website at http://features.peta2.com/making-the-connection/world-hunger.aspx, about half way down to the slider showing the ratio of elimination of eating animals to the amount of hunger that would go away.
3) Be grateful for whatever food you eat. This will bring positive feelings to the world, which may, in turn, create happier circumstances for all animals and plants, including ourselves.
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DIANE GOLD, AUTHOR
Diane Gold, Founder of Warriors of Weight, Turning Habits Into Health, is a mentor in tai chi, kung fu and meditation, a music, fitness and stress expert, dedicated mom, studying plant-based nutrition and habit change.
She is slowly realizing the importance of early education to impact environment when it comes to animal farming and proper nutrition. She says,
“Teachers have the absolute privilege of connecting the dots for young children to understand the world and how it works. What can be taught now to elementary school children is things like producing meat can use 10 times as much blue water as producing vegetables. And reducing meat consumption can reduce hunger.
“These real-life scenarios can help children to understand what most adults don’t due to lack of connecting the dots: that greed or over-consumption can keep the world out of balance and that a little self-control in each of us can heal the world one hungry child at a time. Our thoughtful actions can also create health in ourselves.
“With this knowledge, the youth, who are the change makers of the world, will be able to take meaningful actions based on seeing the full picture. But, will the education system – walking on tiptoes to maintain its funding – allow such teaching; and will the community – walking on tiptoes so that the major corporations lend a hand to sponsor local projects so local politicians look good – allow the open teaching that is needed? It will require patient work on the part of local educators. But, it’s worth it to educate students about the habit of eating meat and what issues surround it.”
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