A couple years ago, I decided to stop eating red meat–most of the time. For several years, I toyed with being vegetarian, but I just couldn't commit to not eating meat for more than a month or so. Meat is convenient, it's a great source of protein, and I'll be the first to admit that it tastes really, really good. I didn't want to completely give it up, so I'd fall back into my carnivorous habits.

It took me too long to realize that there's a middle ground between vegetarian and Ron Swanson, that even if I didn't want to go completely meat free, I could still eat less meat. 

The solution that I've happily been able to commit to is a compromise: to cut out red meat (such as meat from cows, pigs, and sheep), except on very special occasions. Here's why I did it, and why you might want to, too.

Because these animals are really freaking cute.


treehouse1977 on Flickr

I love red meat, but the decision to stop eating it came pretty easily to me. I stumbled upon some pictures of really cute cows (this Buzzfeed article specifically, although since then this even cuter one has been published) and pretty much decided right then and there that I didn't want to eat these cuddly, lovable cuties anymore.

Cows have been my favorite animal since elementary school (just ask the friends who messaged me at my cringeworthy first screen name, purplecowz). How could I claim to love these animals so much yet still expect them to face abuse and ultimately die on my account?

Because I want to live a long time.


Honor Photo Bar on Flickr

Red meat has been linked to high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and, based on the findings of medical researchers at Harvard, a shorter lifespan overall.  The more veg-heavy your diet is, the better it is for your health. Though I don't want to give up meat completely, eating a higher ratio of vegetables to meats and even just choosing chicken over beef helps a lot. 

Because I want to protect my planet.


Kevin M. Gill on Flickr

Meat is not a very environmentally healthy food choice, and red meats are the biggest offenders.  According to the Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health, pound for pound, beef emits twice as many greenhouse gasses as pork, four times as many as chicken, and thirteen times as many as vegetable proteins. A family of four skipping steak once a week for a year does the equivalent of keeping a car off the road for almost three months.

Red meat also uses a lot of water. A UC Davis study found that the beef for one quarter-pound hamburger requires 110 gallons of water—for comparison, a five-minute shower uses about 20 gallons. (Here's a cool article about how much water it takes to produce some of your other favorite foods, by the way.)

I believe that seeing as our federal government doesn't seem like it will be doing much to combat climate change in the next four years, it's on each one of us to protect our environment.  Avoiding red meat is part of my contribution to that effort.

Because I want to save money.


USDAgov on Flickr

As I get older and start to approach the days of being a ~real adult~ who does grown-up things like ~buy her own groceries,~ avoiding red meat only becomes more appealing. According to one study, following a healthy vegetarian diet can save almost $750 a year, as compared to a healthy diet based on animal proteins. Others have found that swapping beans for chicken would save the average American $200 per year, and replacing steak with tofu could save more than $237. 

But because meat tastes great and can be a very healthy choice:

I eat meat, mostly chicken and turkey. Catch me at the V-Dub, one of Brown's dining halls, for Chicken Finger Friday. Every. Single. Week. A couple times a year, I eat red meat, too. I still enthusiastically participate in my family's tradition of eating life-changing good beef tenderloin for Christmas Eve dinner. I eat these things because I really enjoy them, and because when they're prepared right, white meats like chicken can be really healthy options

I don't believe in cutting out any food or food group completely; that just doesn't really work for me. I'm much more likely to stick to a diet plan that allows occasional indulgences. Plus there are still huge benefits to eating some red meat, even without getting rid of it altogether.

This diet works for me, but it may not be your thing. Nonetheless, I encourage you to try it for the sake of the animals, the planet, your budget, and your health.

...and for cuteness sake, I also encourage you to watch this adorable video about Milkshake the cow who thinks she's a dog.