The meat industry has gotten a bad reputation. Popular Netflix shows such as Forks Over Knives in 2011, Cowspiracy in 2014, and Game Changer in 2018 have provided a mass lens into the world of animal agriculture previously overlooked by many people.
These vegan documentaries have opened our eyes to the impact eating meat has on our world and health. They cover topics from the treatment of animals to the health benefits of plant-based food and the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry. Some people may watch these and believe that this is just a "hippy hoax." In contrast, others swear they will never touch another animal product again.
Regardless of which camp a carnivorous person resides in post-viewing, they often continue with their meat-eating habits. It's familiar, usually easier to make, and readily available. Yet, each time a new documentary is released, many feel inclined or guilted into eating less meat. After all, they want what is better for the environment and better for their health.
There is no doubt that veganism is on the rise. Grocery store aisles are changing with many plant-based "meats," non-dairy milk, alternative cheese products, and soy. In 2022, 6% of the US population identified themselves as "vegan," and the plant-based food market saw an 11% increase in sales from 2018 to 2019.
Influenced by the influx of the plant-based industry, many ask, "Should I go vegan?" But, most quickly answer themselves with a resounding "There's NO way that will work for me!", "How can I skip cheese?" or "What about the protein meat provides?" If they take the leap into veganism, 84% abandon their attempt at a plant-based lifestyle.
Being vegan is tough. Eliminating a previously enjoyed food group, going against the grain of American society, and never eating cheese again is NOT easy.
What are your options if you REALLY want to reduce your environmental impact, stay healthy, AND still eat meat?
If you are like most humans and can't commit to veganism, you could become a "conscious carnivore" instead. As a thoughtful meat-eater, you have to be willing to divert from the mainstream and spend some time being more aware of your meat sourcing and consumption.
Here are three ways to kick your meat consciousness up a notch while still being kind to Mother Earth:
Reduce your meat consumption and feel good knowing that every "Meatless Monday" saves an average of 10lbs of meat per year per person. If every American got on board, this would save 6.1 billion cows per year.
Purchase your meat from a regenerative farm. Regenerative farming nourishes people and the earth with specific practices that vary from one grower to another. The common goal of this indigenously inspired farming is to restore the health of the soil and ecosystem and "leave our land, waters, and climate in better shape for future generations."
Become a hunter or purchase meat from someone who hunted it. Hunted meat is as free-range and ethically sourced as it gets.
Aside from thoughtful meat consumption, you can also protect our earth by considering the following:
Reduce your food waste. Did you know that produce thrown in the garbage emits more than 3x as much methane as factory-farmed livestock?
Use less plastic. Our insane use of plastic shows up as microplastic in the ocean and our soil, negatively impacting our earth and the food we eat.
Since regenerative farming is only a tiny percentage of the farming industry, isn't as widely known, and can significantly impact our future earth, I'd like to focus on it further.
Regenerative farming honors our earth and health by prioritizing the soil, reducing its reliance on synthetic materials, and nurturing the people it serves. Its ecological benefits include:
Improved soil fertility
Reduced soil erosion and water pollution
Improved water retention in the soil
Decreased greenhouse gas emissions (our current food system is responsible for almost HALF of all greenhouse gas emissions!)
Health benefits include:
Less exposure to toxic chemicals
This conscientious farming method relies on animals to build the soil rather than deplete it. The animals help produce fertilizer, conserve water and eliminate the need for agricultural chemicals. Your decision to eat animals from a regenerative farm can improve both your health and the health of the land.
Mark Hyman, MD, in his book "The Pegan Diet," eloquently states, "Food is medicine for humans. And food, grown in ways that are restorative and regenerative, is medicine for the planet."
There is so much more to be said, learned, and implemented to change our farming industry and our individual ability to preserve our precious earth. The surface has just been scratched with this post. I encourage you to join me on this "clean" or conscious living journey. We can help rebuild the soil for future generations to improve their health and the world they live in and breathe on. Are you with me?
Want to learn more about Regenerative Farming? Check out these resources:
Hyman, Mark. The Pegan Diet. New York, Little Brown Spark, 2021.
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