New Online Calculator Lets You See the Impact of Your Meat Intake—on Animals, the Climate and Your Health

One person's meat-eating can make a bigger difference than you think.

Photo Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

One of my resolutions this year is to eat less meat. As a lifelong carnivore, this task has already proven to be easier said than done. The major challenge comes down to changing my habits. After years of enjoying bacon with my eggs for breakfast, I now associate its comforting greasy taste with the feeling of fullness. So how do I—and others like me—overcome this obstacle? One big challenge is finding a way to stay motivated.

Enter the Meat Blitz-Calculator.

Major reasons for cutting down on meat have to do with the health, environmental and animal welfare impact of this dietary choice. It may be easy to understand the negative consequences meat-eating has for your heart, the climate or animals on factory farms, but it's another matter when it comes to relating these impacts directly to your own consumption habits. This is where the calculator comes in.

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The first question the calculator asks is whether you eat meat. If you answer yes, the calculator displays three predetermined average values for the amount of poultry, pork and beef in ounces you consume in a week. These figures—based on information taken from a USDA database—represent the national average for Americans and can be adjusted accordingly. The calculator then asks you to fill in what percentage of meat you would be willing to replace with vegetarian food in your diet.

This is where things get interesting. Based on further USDA statistics, the calculator displays the direct impact your dietary decision could have over the course of a decade. This information comes in two parts. The first set of figures shows how much water, CO2 and antibiotics would be spared by committing to your change in diet. The calculator also displays an infographic that represents the number of pigs, cows and chickens you would save from the slaughtering block.

What difference can this make to your habits, you may wonder? It comes down to shifting perspectives. Using the averages of the calculator, I committed to a 60 percent reduction over the next decade. By crunching the numbers, the calculator revealed the full impact my dietary decision could have on both my own wellbeing as well as the environment and animals (the latter two often require an imaginative leap that our stomachs—and cognitive dissonance—help us overlook).

Now the next time I'm tempted to eat a burger or a steak, I will be able to picture the cumulative impact of my decision. It's easy enough to dismiss the choices we make on a daily basis, but it becomes a lot harder when you start to consider the difference your decisions alone can make over a long period of time.

In order to do something I don’t want to do, I need a good incentive. Ignorance might be bliss, but knowledge is power. Now that I understand the full impact of what I decide to eat for every meal, it has become a lot easier to avoid temptation. This change in behavior may not seem significant at first, but as the calculator helped me to realize, every little bit counts.

Want to eat less meat? Check out four easy tips to reduce your intake.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.