Did you know that the whole meat production industry produces more greenhouse gases than all of the automobiles in the world combined?
This is the bit of information that turned me off from eating meat. And I’ve managed to stay away from meat for a year now.
You don’t have to be an animal lover or a constant weight-watcher to find practical reasons to reduce your meat intake. But I care a lot about my environmental impact. And for whatever reason you choose to cut your meat intake, you’ll find the benefits cascading into a lot of other areas.
1. Reduce health risks – A largely plant-based (read: vegetarian) diet is lower in cholesterol than a meat-rich diet, since fruits, vegetables, beans and grains are cholesterol-free, and dairy products tend to be lower in cholesterol than meat . This isn’t new news, so eat more veggies!
2. Feel lighter and more alert – Yoga practitioners attest to vegetarian diets improving their practice. Personally, not being weighed down by meat makes me feel less sluggish and gross.
3. Save money – The cost of meat can be 3-10 times more then produce per kilo, depending on what vegetable and what cut of meat you’re comparing. Even though you’d need maybe twice as much produce to feel as full as you might with meat, total cost would still be cheaper.
4. Maximize land – Research by RK Pachuari, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), found that one hectare of land, producing vegetables, fruit and cereals can feed up to 30 people. The same area, if used to produce meat, could feed only 5-10. 
5. Prevent deforestation – Much of livestock farming requires space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed, taking up nearly 1/3 of the Earth’s entire landmass.  In a report by Friends of the Earth, an estimated 6 million hectares of forest land is converted to farmland every year, with most going to livestock or to grow the crops to feed the cattle.
6. Cut animal crap and pollution – A cow excretes around 40kg of manure for every kilo of edible beef you can get from it. In factory farms, where thousands are crowded into a small area, their excrement is funneled into waste lagoons sometimes holding as many as 40 million gallons. Breaks, leaks or overflows pollute underground water supplies and rivers with nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrates. A single spill from a North Carolina pig factory lagoon in 1995 killed about 10 million fish and forced the closure of 364,000 acres of coastal wetlands. 
7. Decrease use of fossil fuels. Each process in meat production & distribution demands electricity, from the production of the fertiliser to grow animal feed, to pumping the water they need, to transportation in giant refrigerated ships to supermarket shelves. According to some studies, as much as 1/3 of all fossil fuels produced in the United States now go towards animal agriculture. 
8. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions – In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that worldwide livestock farming generates a whopping 18% of the planet’s GHG emissions vs. the 13% from all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined.  The 1.4 billion cattle and 1.1 billion sheep on the planet produce 37% of the total methane generated by human activity, a gas that traps 20 times more GHG than CO2. 
Deciding to reduce or even eliminate meat from one’s diet is a personal choice, and food issues – its health benefits, nutritional value, and production – have long been debated. Learning more about the impact of mass meat production made me realize that in my little own way, I could stop fanning the fire that the meat industry was creating on the planet.
If going cold turkey on meat is not your thing, it doesn’t have to be. Meat in itself is not the enemy, but the excessive consumption of it is. What I feel is more important is adopting more vegetables and less meat in one’s diet, and finding that true purchasing power lies in consumers’ demand to affect production supply and quality, and that if you decide to go vegetarian, friends who learn about why you do what you do will start to rethink their own food choices as well.
So, what’s for dinner?
JEN HORN (@nomadmanager) is a wanderer, writer, and designer out to build the MUNI community, create a culture of caring for self, others, and the planet, and make choosing better a way of life as MUNI’s Chief Collaborator. She is also a lover of handwoven textiles, and aims to keep weaving traditions alive through the use of Philippine textiles in modern fashion with her side project Tala Luna.