You might question whether Sonya Blan is qualified to write about meat, being vegan and all. But Sonya has a long past with meat-eating, and she wants to share what she found. Whether you’re the kind who likes strips of bacon on your veal sandwich, or you eat an organic, free-range chicken but once a fortnight, if you haven’t already – meet your meat.
Two-and-a-half years ago, at Rockpool restaurant in Melbourne, 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. Steakhouses probably outnumber 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.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]There are healthier sources of protein out there[/pullquote]
Meat and your health
From your run-of-the-mill, grocery-store packaged ham to your sausages and hot dogs, processed meats – which aren’t just rashes of bacon and sausages – contain high levels of nitrosamines. They’re mostly carcinogenic compounds (including among the most carcinogenic agents in cigarette smoke) – and we consume them at will. More and more research has been conducted that shows ties between meat consumption and some forms of cancer. Breast, colon, prostate and other cancers are all increasing in populations with high meat consumption. This isn’t particularly cutting-edge information either. You can find evidence of this yourself easily. Sites and organisations 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 US Department of Agriculture is finally warning the public that we cut our meat consumption for our health. On March 12, 2012, Harvard studies found that “red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD [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 just the tie between red meat (which includes lamb, beef, veal and more) and cancer; of equal significance is 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 level or a lack of vitamin D. No-one asked about my cholesterol, sugars, iron or my diet at all. Yet when I stopped eating meat, they looked at me as though I may snap in half, faint or disintegrate before their very eyes! Well, it’s only been nine 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 Harvard studies imply in their results, there are healthier options for protein out there, and if you want to increase your chances of seeing grandchildren, I’d look into them, too. If you’re still not convinced about the advantages of cutting your meat intake (or eliminating it), you can do some of your own research. And when you do, make sure the people reporting the facts have no ties to big agribusiness. You’ll thank me later. Better yet, your grandkids will.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The developed world, with all its modern advances could be brought down, literally, by farts[/pullquote]
But say you’re okay with your health. Either you’re certain that you’re in fantastic shape (all you marathon runners) or you’re okay with heading to an early grave and you never wanted kids anyway (looking at you, smokers). Well, to start, the world’s cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. Per day. Methane traps heat 100 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a five-year period, 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) could be brought down, literally, by farts. And it’s not just the farts. Animal agriculture also produces a lot of 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? 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce just 1 pound (less than half a kilo) 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, having short showers, the whole lot – but they were omnivores. That’s not a huge surprise, and at the time, I was one, 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 write home about.) The point is, for a family of six plus myself, I would buy about 1.5 kilos of beef mince for this one dinner. And for the ones doing the math (don’t strain yourself), 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds. 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 can hurt your health and the planet. I just thought you should get reacquainted with your meat.
Photo credit: Jim Sheely cc.
Fantastic article! Thank you so very much Sonya, will def share this in my networks and on my website, pages and blogs. I think it’s important to just really get down to the facts but still write to in a way people want to read it. Very well written, fresh, to the point and accurate. THANK YOU!
Right on trend Sonya – glad to also read China’s health dept aims to reduce per capita meat consumption by 50% – that will make a HUGE difference to our world and to their public health outcomes. What a shame Western countries are so tied up by industries more concerned with profits than us humans (and of course the animals!) The work of Melanie Joy might interest you too http://www.carnism.org/ and after watching how (yet again) the Australian live cattle exports are so brutal to animals I’m wondering how we can continue to disassociate our humanity from the steak on our plate.
Hi all- thanks so much for the feedback and support! So glad you liked it- and have already engrossed myself in carnism.org – Thank you!!