Posted on Sep 14, 2023, 7 p.m.
This is a long-standing hot topic of debate, and it is not likely to go away any time soon. Some people are trying to get people to switch to lessen the environmental burdens, and others just don’t like the idea of people eating or using animals. Other people argue that animal products have been eaten and used for clothing dating back to the beginning, and the debate continues in an endless circle.
I personally eat meat and dairy, I also have some clothing and shoes that have animal products in them. Most people have clothing and shoes that have animal products in them, they just don’t realize it. I don’t like animal testing, but understand why it is used. I also don’t agree with how animals have come to be treated in the “modern industrialized” food chain.
I looked into dairy alternatives, specifically the production of almond milk, and was surprised at how much water it uses and how much waste it generates. All of the alternatives may have some lower impacts than dairy, but the waste, water use, and eutrophication due to runoff factors in, and when all is considered there is no clear winner on all metrics in that debate.
Yes, I still eat meat and dairy, vegan is not for me. However, I have dramatically cut down over the past 10 years, especially on pork and I use almond milk more often than not. When shopping I only select organic produce, or free-range, and grass-fed options, looking for those that were raised without growth hormones and such. You know, how farming used to be, back in the day, when everyone largely cooked at home and was arguably healthier (think obesity and related). Whenever I can I shop at farmers' markets or directly from farms. Not only do I find everything is better, but I’m supporting local communities with traditions that are slowly disappearing.
Would I give it up? To be honest, probably not, but I could cut down more. Do I think that in general people eat too much meat, yes, resoundingly yes. Just look at fast food chains, and that is not even touching on the waste they generate, but that is a story for another day. Will I ever eat fake meat, not if I can help it because I prefer to avoid ultra-processed products. Completely giving up meat and dairy is not for me, or a lot of people, but it is for many.
According to research a lot of people may need to make some hard choices and cut back as well, before the choices are taken away and we are left with only the less desirable alternatives. For those of you who are heavy meat eaters, you may want to consider becoming a Flexitarian Feaster, Part-Time Carnivore, or a Reducetarian. Meatless Mondays are also fairly popular among those trying to cut back on meat, that is not to say you have to eat fake meat but maybe have some rice or pasta or bean salad instead.
A flexitarian is a person who is both vegetarian and carnivorous but eats more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, etc. than they do meat. Basically, whatever you like, but more conscious of making healthier choices trying to include more plant-based options. A reducetarian is committed to eating less meat, dairy, and eggs, primarily eating a plant-based focused diet. Part-time carnivores limit themselves to only eating up to six meaty meals a week in an attempt to reduce their meat intake. There are more options, but these appear to be the most popular currently.
Whatever your reasons are for cutting back on meat intake, research backs the benefits of cutting back on meat intake for reducing the risks of heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and many cancers. Cutting back on dairy may help with weight reduction, clear up skin issues, improve digestion, and reduce inflammation.
Recent research published in Nature Communications suggests that if half of all meat and dairy products were replaced with plant-based alternatives by 2050 the global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could drop by around 31%. Reforesting some of the areas used for livestock production could double climate advantages and reduce half of the project ecosystem decline, and the restored areas could refill up over half of the global land restoration goals if the land spared is restored through biodiversity-minded afforestation.
“Understanding the impacts of dietary shifts expands our options for reducing GHG emissions. Shifting diets could also yield huge improvements for biodiversity,” notes study lead author Marta Kozicka, a researcher in the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program.
“Plant-based meats are not just a novel food product, but a critical opportunity for achieving food security and climate goals while also achieving health and biodiversity objectives worldwide. Yet, such transitions are challenging and require a range of technological innovations and policy interventions,” adds study coauthor Eva Wollenberg from Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and the Gund Institute, University of Vermont.
“While the analyzed dietary shifts serve as a powerful enabler for reaching climate and biodiversity goals, they must be accompanied by targeted production side policies to deliver their full potential. Otherwise, these benefits will be partly lost due to production extensification and resulting GHG and land-use efficiency losses,” explains IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program Director Petr Havlík, who coordinated the study.
“A global introduction of all novel alternatives has additional benefits compared to the scenarios with limited product or geographical scope, but regional substitution of specific products may be highly effective, especially if combined with regional strategies and purposeful selection of recipes,” Kozicka explains.
I often joke with my few vegan friends that they are eating my food’s food. Joking aside, ultimately, I find myself eating more salads, but those salads generally have a bit of chicken tossed in along with a handful of nuts, and I feel full. I am also enjoying Indian foods more now, surprisingly most of my favorite Indian dishes don’t contain meat, and I am getting proficient at cooking them at home. With help from the interwebs, I’m exploring different foods, herbs, and spices from around the world. Yum.
Would I personally completely give up meat and dairy right now, no, but I will take steps to cut back now in hopes that one day the choice won’t be taken from me for one reason or another.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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