23 May 2011 One Bite At a Time Most Americans are aware of global warming, cancer, heart disease and the fact that the earth’s supply of good water is diminishing. In an effort to conserve our planet people drive hybrid cars, recycle, and use low energy light bulbs and appliances, which is great. However, most Americans are unaware and uninformed about how meat effects global warming, our health, and how much of our planet’s water and resources meat production consumes.
Meat contributes to global warming, increases risk for cancer, causes heart disease and uses a tremendous amount of resources to produce, therefore people need to be informed about what they are eating through food labeling and Surgeon General warnings, as well as cutting back to appropriate portion sizes. Farming used to do good things for our planet, where as now its causing harm due to mass production and factory farms. “Traditionally, farm animals played a useful role . . . they ate grass, crop wastes, and kitchen scraps that people could not eat and turned them into good that people could eat.
Their manure provided the soil with needed nutrients . . . the animals pulled plows and provided services that enhanced human life”(Robbins 233). Things have changed drastically since the days of simple farming. Today, “With the expansion and mechanization of animal farming . . . there are now 20 billion livestock on Earth- more than triple the number of human beings”(Robbins 234). The problem with having so many livestock on earth is that the manure that used to provide soil with nutrients now releases nitrous oxide, which contributes to global warming. According to the U.
N Food and Agriculture Organization “ Worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions . . . all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13%”. However it’s more than just the manure contributing to global warming. FAO estimates that 70% of former forest covers were cut down to make room for grazing. This is a problem because “Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they’re alive . . . when they’re cut down or burned, the greenhouse gases are released back into the atmosphere”(Walsh).
Cutting back on meat, or eliminating it all together would be a great way to help preserve our planet and much cheaper than a hybrid car. If meat production continues to grow, not only will it keep contributing to global warming, it will continue using the earth’s precious resources. The amount of food and water needed for farming is obscene. Water is something that we take for granted. There is no replacement for water, so when there is a 3 to 1 ratio from livestock to humans, why are we wasting so much of our earth’s precious water on livestock? Forty-two percent of the fresh water available to us in the United States is used for agriculture” (Silverstone 25). Granted it’s not all devoted to animals, and the amount of water needed to produce meat varies in different parts of the country.
In California, according to the Water Education Foundation, to produce one pound of California beef the amount of water required is 2,464 gallons; comparatively a pound of tomatoes only requires 23 gallons of water (Robbins 236-237). Think of how much water California would save if everyone cut back on meat. Then there is the other problem, how much food we use to feed the livestock. Sixty million acres of the United States are devoted to growing hay primarily for livestock, while we only use 13 million acres to grow fruits and vegetables”(Silverstone 25). If there were less of a demand for livestock, that would enable us to use the land devoted to growing hay for growing vegetables, fruit and other plant based foods while using considerably less water. Not only is meat taking a toll on the environment, it’s taking a toll on the heath of America. Eating meat, especially the portions Americans eat, cause Heart Disease and increase a person’s risk for Cancer.
The facts that there are triple the amount of livestock on earth means only one thing, that humans eat entirely too much meat. In fact, “The average person in the industrialized world eats more than 176lb of meat annually”(Walsh). People would argue that we need meat to survive, but in fact meat causes more harm than it does good because of saturated fats and cholesterol. “Cholesterol is found only in animal foods and is particularly concentrated in organ meats and eggs”(Davis and Vesanto 27), therefore, it would be hard to argue that cutting back or eliminating meat would be a bad thing.
Another major problem is that meat contains a ton of saturated fats, which raise a person’s blood cholesterol and causes plague to clog arteries, clogged arteries lead to high blood pressure and heart attacks (Silverstone). “More than anything else, blood cholesterol determines your likelihood of having a heart attack”(Marcus 10). There have also been many studies that link meat consumption to cancer. “Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have isolated a sugar molecule that shows up in many cancerous human tumors . . Not only does Neu5Gc seem to build tumors, our human bodies produce antibodies against Neu5Gc, which causes inflammation, helping the tumors to grow even more”(Silverstone 17). The connection between eating meat and cancer from the research done at UC San Diego is that the sugar molecule Neu5Gc comes from red meat and is not produced in the human body (Silverstone). In America people have a hard time recognizing that what they eat contributes to disease, they would rather put blame on smoking and drinking when it comes to cancer.
However, “The American Cancer Society estimates that 75 percent of all cancers are the product of our environment and lifestyle . . . 30 to 40 percent of all cancers are caused by diet”(Davis and Melina 32). The consumption of meat has also been liked to Osteoporosis; “When you eat meat, your blood becomes acidic . . . In order to balance all the acidity, your bones come to the rescue by releasing some of their minerals”(Silverstone 17). “Diets”, in America revolve heavily around meat and dairy products; no wonder cancer is the second leading cause of death.
These are significant problems because Heart Disease and Cancer are the number one and two killers in America. “Almost one of every two Americans will die from Heart Disease . . . 40 million diagnosed with heart disease, and 1. 5 million a year having heart attacks”(Marcus 8). There is no denying that disease is developing at a rapid pace. Everyone knows someone who had or has cancer or heart disease. They are awful diseases, and “a high-fat, animal based diet is the single most significant cause of death from heart disease”(Marcus 3).
If people cut back or eliminated animal products from their diets, not only would they be eating less of the foods that cause their bodies harm, they would be eating more nutrient rich foods (fruits and vegetables) that help fight off and prevent disease. “Doctors like Dean Ornish and John MacDougall have discovered that plant-based diets have the power to reverse heart disease, diabetes, even cancer”(Silverstone 7). One might argue that eating vegan or vegetarian is expensive; but would you rather pay a little bit more at the grocery store now, or pay for an xpensive heart surgery or chemotherapy because of what that inexpensive meat did to your body? There are some things already being done in an effort to get Americans to cut back on meat, but they aren’t enough. Yes, there are more vegetarian options at grocery stores now; you no longer have to go to a specialty market to get vegetarian options. In major chain grocery stores like Ralph’s and VONS, they carry vegetarian brands of non-meat items like Boca and Garden burger; you can buy tofu, tofurkey, non-dairy cheese, yogurt and milk.
The only problem is that its not always easy to find, they usually have a separate “heath food isle” where they keep all the non-animal products. Then there is the John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. They have started a global movement to get people to cut back on meat by reinventing a campaign called Meatless Mondays that was based on a campaign used during WW1 to conserve food for soldiers. In 2003, they recreated Meatless Mondays as public heath awareness program to help Americans reduce their risk for preventable disease by cutting back on meat. It was originally endorsed by over 20 schools of public health and is now global.
Countries, hospitals, restaurants and Universities around the world are joining the movement for Meatless Mondays; it could always get bigger though. If there was backing from our government like there was during WW1 just think of how much larger this campaign could get. During that time, “The effect was overwhelming . . . In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of one week”(Meatless Mondays). If the U. S food administration made the same effort today, the United States could be one step closer to a healthier population. There needs to be a Surgeon General’s warning on meat products.
The duties of the Surgeon General are to “Protect and advance the health of the nation through educating the pubic, advocating for effective disease prevention and health promotion programs and activities, and, providing a highly recognized symbol of national commitment to protecting and improving the public’s health”(Surgeon General). If the Surgeon General serves as “America’s doctor”, and is concerned advocating for disease prevention, they should take a serious look at promoting a low fat plant-based diet. According to “ Dr. William Castelli, director of the Farmington Heart Study . . a low-fat plant-based diet would decrease an individual’s risk of heart attack by 85 percent”(Silverstone 16). The government, starting with the Surgeon General, also needs to do their job in educating the general public on what meat does to their bodies. Everyone is familiar with the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes, that smoking causes cancer and increases you risk for heart disease; if eating meat causes heart disease and increases risk for cancer and other diseases like osteoporosis it is important people know what they are putting in their bodies just like cigarettes.
Food labeling needs to be the same for meat as it is for every other food product. Almost everything you buy these days has a nutrition label except for fresh meat and poultry. At the end of 2009 the Department of Agriculture proposed a solution that forced grocery stores and supermarkets to provide nutrition facts. However, the solution doesn’t work because the grocery stores and supermarkets don’t have to put it directly on the package; they can put the nutrition facts on a poster, pamphlet, or anywhere in the store that is available to customers if they request (Hurley and Liebman).
If they were forced to add the nutrition facts directly to the package on fresh meats just like every other food product out there, it would at least inform people on what they are putting into their bodies and reduce the amount of meat purchased, and therefore reducing the amount of meat produced. Restaurants need to decrease portion sizes and offer non-meat items. “The U. S department of Agriculture says that a typical serving of steaks, roasts, chops and poultry parts is just 3 ounces”(Hurley and Liebman).
Most restaurants typically serve a six-ounce chicken breast, and the size of a steak ranges from 6 to 12 ounces. That is a huge problem right there, no wonder obesity is a problem in the United Stares. If restaurants were required to serve the appropriate serving size recommended by our government and health officials, there would be less people eating meat, which would once again lead to less meat being produced. Another problem with restaurants, especially chain restaurants are that they don’t always serve non-meat items. I have worked for T.
G. I Friday’s for the past seven years, and they don’t even serve a veggie burger. Restaurants should be required to serve a vegetarian option. Most people love dining out and if they had non-meat options it would allow them make healthier decisions and help contribute to the reduction of the amount of meat produced. If Americans want to do their part in conserving our planet while reducing their risk for heart disease, cancer and other nasty diseases they need to consider how what they eat effects themselves and the environment.
The government needs to provide guidelines and Surgeon General warnings to help inform and guide our nation to eating less meat and living a healthier lifestyle. If we all do our part one bite at a time we will have a healthier nation, reduce the amount of harm farming is doing to our planet (because their would be less livestock on earth), as well as use less of our earth’s precious resources.
Works Cited “A Campaign Becomes a Movement”. Meatless Mondays. n pg. n. d. Web. 11 May 2011. Davis, Brenda and Melina, Vesanto. The New Becoming Vegetarian. Summertown, Tennessee: Healthy Living Publications, 2003. Print. Hurley, Jayne and Liebman, Bonnie. “The Kindest Cut”. Nutrition Action Health Letter. 37. 8 (Oct 2010): pg. 13. Web. 11 May 2011. Marcus, Erik. Vegan The New Ethics of Eating. New York: Mcbooks Press, 2001. Print. Office of Surgeon General. “About the office of the Surgeon General”. Surgeon General. n. pg. n. d. Web. 9 May 2011. Robbins, John. The Food Revolution. San Francisco: Conari Press, 2001. Print. Silverstone, Alicia. The Kind Diet. New York: Rodale Inc, 2009. Print Walsh, Bryan. ”Meat: Making Global Warming Worse”. Time. Sept. 2008:n. pg. Time. com. Web. 3 May 2011.
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