I love meat — see below for actual GIF of me consuming my ideal amount of burgers. Steak, burgers, bacon, pepperoni, you name it and I probably eat it. I promise you that I would eat them in the rain, in the dark, and on a train (insert shameless Dr. Seuss shout-out).
Okay, you get the point. I really do love meat, and I don’t discriminate. So you can imagine my utter heartbreak when I found out that eating meat might actually be doing me and my fellow earthlings a great deal of harm.
While scrolling through NPR’s food page the other day (10/10 would recommend if you’re feeling particularly pretentious and informed one day), I came across two separate articles discussing why we should be consuming less red meat.
I’ve heard it time and time again that red meat isn’t that great for you, but there are plenty of things out there that “aren’t good” for me that I eat anyways. So what was it about these two articles that made me stop in my tracks?
Maybe it was because it came from NPR — because, let’s face it, I’ll listen to basically anything they tell me. Or maybe it was two major buzz-words that got me: “cancer” and “pollution.” Whatever it was, the authors definitely got me to listen. So now, here I am, to tell YOU (as painful as it may be for me to say this) that mayyyyyybe we should consider eating less red meat. Here’s why.
It’s a potential cause of cancer.
A lot of Americans, specifically, have been cutting back on their red meat consumption recently — not just because of its expensive price tag, but because of the potential health risks.
Last year, the World Health Organization let out the word that eating processed meat can actually cause colon cancer. While we’re still trying to figure out exactly why this is, there seem to be some explanation, like the fact that processed meats contain nitrates that are used to make meat last longer and look pretty on your grocery store shelves.
Unfortunately for us, our body takes those nitrates and turns them into things called nitrosamines (you know it’s serious when a Poli Sci major starts using science terms), which is what can lead to cancer.
Okay, but no need to worry quite yet, fellow steak-lovers. The good news is that you’re really only at risk if you’re consuming a lot of red meat. Eat it rarely or in moderation? No worries.
We’re contributing to nitrogen pollution.
While my first point focused on red meat as a problem, my second point addresses ALL meat (we’re talking about chicken, turkey, etc.) as an issue — and it’s actually a really big one. So hold up, and let me break it down for you.
When farmers plant crops, they typically use nitrogen-rich fertilizer to help them grow. But the thing is, plants only soak up about half of the nitrogen, and the rest is just leaked into the environment. Since producing meat requires farmers to feed animals with A LOT of plants, we’re multiplying the amount of nitrogen that’s getting into our environment by about 16 times (that’s insane!). And with that, we have nitrogen pollution that also comes from wasting our food.
So how can you help?
Like I said, all meat does have an impact on nitrogen pollution, but red meat has a significantly higher impact. Eating more chicken and fish, and holding back from devouring that bacon cheeseburger, can help our environment.
Focusing on not wasting food can help a lot, too. When we waste food, those environmentally unfriendly chemicals go back into our earth, rather than allowing our bodies to naturally break them down.
In the end, in order to help reduce these harmful effects on our environment, we need help from everyone — from farmers to consumers to advocates, and everyone in between.