The human species needs to eat less meat. Why? Take your pick of reasons, from the detrimental impact global meat consumption has on the climate, to the ethics of the mass farming of sentient animals. Or, here’s one that might sink in for the more selfish carnivores among us: not dying of a chronic illness.
In the past few years, you may have noticed more and more people around you turning away from meat. At dinner parties or family barbecues, on your social media feed or in the news, vegetarianism and its more austere cousin, veganism, are becoming increasingly popular.
In one episode of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, six-year-old Calvin is chomping on a hamburger and asks his mother, "Is hamburger meat made out of people from Hamburg?" She replies, "Of course not! It's ground beef." Calvin looks incredulously at his burger and says, "I'm eating a cow? I don't think I can finish this."
The cliche about the American diet being mostly meat and potatoes has seemed less true over recent years, with vegetarianism going mainstream and veganism gaining popularity. But old dietary habits die hard—possibly because of their clogged arteries. A new study finds there’s been a reversal in meat-eating declines, with the last year seeing Americans piling their plates higher with meat than they have in nearly 40 years. That's not so great news for Americans' health, and potentially devastating for the planet.
In case you’ve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, here’s a quick refresher.
It’s a tricky thing to grow enough food for a ballooning population without destroying the natural world. And when I say a tricky thing, I mean it’s one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.
Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has advocated for a number of worthy causes, from fighting climate change to the importance of conservation. Now, with a single tweet, the planetary steward shines a light on the colossal environmental impact of animal agriculture.
Americans love meat. A lot. In surveys, the U.S. consistently lands near the top of the list in meat consumption around the world, beating out known meat-loving countries like Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand. Perhaps as a consequence of that, Americans are also not eating enough vegetables or fruit, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A study conducted by the agency earlier this year found that just 13.1 percent of Americans consume enough fruit, and a paltry 8.5 percent eat enough vegetables. (Californians actually fared best on both.) Maybe the meat and potatoes American diet is a stereotype, but it’s a stereotype that’s not altogether unfounded.
When you’re drunk, sticking to promises you’ve made to yourself can be difficult. Planning to have a bunch of drinks and then not text that dude/post that thing on Facebook/shop for things you would never otherwise buy on Amazon? Good luck with that. And congratulations on your brand-new collection of every episode of “Gossip Girl.”
Whether you’re a strict vegetarian or a contented carnivore, meat poses a vexing efficiency problem. Crowded into feedlots, the modern cow burns through an estimated 25 pounds of corn and soybeans for every pound of edible meat it generates. Pork, chicken, and egg production each requires an average of five pounds of feed per pound of product yielded, which is somewhat more efficient, but they, too, raise a provocative question: Why not just eat the protein-rich grain and beans that go into all that feed rather than running them through the body of an animal first?
You can understand why Meat Free Week [MFW] is formulated as it is. From foreign aid to cancer research budgets, people seem incapable of engaging practically with any serious issue unless it comes packaged as a fun national event in which they can take on a challenge, raise money for charity and bang on about it on social media.