I don’t have very many strong memories of being in first grade. I was barely seven years old, after all. I do remember that there was a large sign by the door with various ideas for helping to do our part to conserve resources — water, electricity, etc. There was one thing on the sign that I did not see and that was to not eat meat.

After all, what would not eating meat have anything to do with conserving water or electricity? Quite a lot, according to Pat Brown, biochemist at the Stanford School of Medicine. It’s something we need to quit like a bad chewing gum habit.

Cows, for example, excrete methane and nitrous oxide, which contribute to global warming, and gobble down tons of water-sucking grains and plants, exacerbating water shortages worldwide.

One would think that with all of these disadvantages to the production of meat, it would have to be offset by some kind of benefit, yes?

I would suppose if you look at it in terms of tasting good (somewhat subjective) or filling ones hunger, that is a definite positive. Otherwise, things are rather rather grim.

High intake of red and processed meat reported in 1992/1993 was associated with higher risk of colon cancer after adjusting for age and energy intake but not after further adjustment for body mass index, cigarette smoking, and other covariates. When long-term consumption was considered, persons in the highest tertile of consumption in both 1982 and 1992/1993 had higher risk of distal colon cancer associated with processed meat, and ratio of red meat to poultry and fish … relative to those persons in the lowest tertile at both time points.

What does Brown suggest be done to encourage people to get meat off their plates? “Incentives that include increasing the price of meat at the supermarket counter so it costs two to three times what you’re paying now. ”

This is all well and good in theory, but it just doesn’t seem to really work in reality. If raising the price of cigarettes and having hundreds of anti-smoking ads haven’t gotten enough people to quit smoking, how will it help people quit meat when there are countless advertisements telling you how great it is? Pork — the other white meat — does not exactly cry out that it is anything but good for you.

As for me, I have been meat-free for a couple of months and it has been going really well. I have been feeling significantly more healthy and have been sleeping better at night. It is well worth investigating whether removing some meat from your life may be beneficial — even partially removing it seems better than not doing so at all.

2 Comments

  1. Totally love this article, Gordon! The research you quote is incredibly convincing.

    Do you have to make any changes to your Seder plate?

    Are there any other Jewish rituals that involve meat or animal bits?

    1. David,

      Thusfar we have always been out for Seder meals so we don’t have much of an option as to what goes on the plate. However, Some people say that since the intent of the plate is to remind us of things and we never actually eat from it, we can substitute other things that also remind us — a blood red beet instead of a shank bone, for example.

      The Jewish ritual that involves the most meat is the daily meal itself! We are told that eating meat during the Sabbath is a delight and are encouraged to do so. However (I asked about this) if one does not find it to be a delight, one is certainly not encouraged to do so!