According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American eats over 222 pounds of meat a year. As America has become wealthier, we have also consumed more meat per capita which is resource-intensive and environmentally destructive. Livestock are a leading cause of climate change resulting in approximately 14.5 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
Hang in there, I am not going to ask you to become a vegetarian. Keep reading to save money, improve your health, and reduce your environmental impact with a few staple change ups.Beef is especially damaging to our earth, it requires 20 times more land and produces 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per gram of protein than common plant proteins. In 2020, the U.S. has imported more than 2.35 billion (yes with a B) pounds of beef. An estimated 70% of deforestation in the Amazon basin (an area larger than the state of Washington) can be attributed to cattle farming. So not only do cattle belch methane (a potent GHG) into the atmosphere, but the trees that capture greenhouse gasses are being cut down to make room for cattle ranching and farmland to grow the cattle feed.
Buying local meat is much less environmentally destructive and supports your local economy, but don’t be fooled by the label! Meat products that are shipped to the U.S. and processed for packaging here can be labeled with “Product of the USA”.
Here is my challenge to you, can you alter recipes slightly to reduce meat consumption in your house?
- When making Mexican dishes, use half the amount of beef and add an equal part black beans. My favorite base for taco’s or salad is roasted sweet potatoes and black beans.
- Having Italian for dinner? Chop up carrots, mushrooms, and onions to add to your red sauce and again use less meat than you would normally.
- Cauliflower is a great replacement for buffalo wings or chicken nuggets.
- Not to be forgotten are the all-powerful lentil and chickpea which are protein and nutrient packed and can be used in soups, fritters, and as proteins in many recipes.
Moreover, I am also impressed by the progress in plant-based meat substitutes. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible have produced healthy products that are merely identical in flavor and texture to that of its meaty counterpart. Season and cook the same way you would animal products. Let’s get a little crazy and just give it a try, scared you might like it?
As Jonathan Safran Foer writes in We Are The Weather Saving The Plant Begins At Breakfast, “Only collective action will save our home and way of life. And it all starts with what we eat – and don’t eat – for breakfast.” Can you meet the challenge of not eating animal products until after lunch?