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Food Choices: Taking Meat Off the Table - March 12, 2012
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chilli with produceIf you’ve read our previous articles, you already know that meat production is a big contributor to global climate change. From feeding and housing to processing and waste, each stage of the meat lifecycle is filled with greenhouse gas emissions, toxic pollutants, and harmful byproducts. (The Environmental Working Group has an excellent infographic that illustrates the many impacts of meat consumption.)

But what to do about it? Cutting meat from your diet can be a tough decision, and many find it too difficult to say ‘goodbye’ to their favorite filets. Adopting a semi-vegetarian lifestyle can be equally daunting. Mark Bittman summed it up in 2009 when he wrote that “in the American style of eating... it can be difficult to eat two ounces of beef and call it dinner.” He doesn’t back down from the challenge, though, and came up a list of handy tips to ease the transition. We’ve summarized his excellent advice:

  1. Don’t worry about protein. Many plants have more protein per calorie than meat.

  2. Buy less meat. Four ounces of meat per person is the USDA recommended serving size (not the half-pound steaks we’re used to seeing on our plates).

  3. Consider meat a side dish or condiment rather than the main event.

  4. Bring more vegetables into the kitchen, and take the time to learn how to cook them.

  5. Cook vegetarian staples (beans, rice, other grains) ahead of time and keep them handy for quick meals. Most grains and legumes keep for about a week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.

  6. Figure out rules that work for you (e.g., ‘no meat for breakfast,’ or ‘only three meaty meals per week’) to help you cut down on your consumption.

  7. Try ordering less meat-intensive options when you dine out.

Reducing the amount of meat in your diet can be tough, but it’s the most important food-related choice that you can make to lighten your climate impact. In other words? The meat of the issue is, in fact, the meat.


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