Lowering Meat Consumption to Better the World
Meat has become a staple in the American diet. According to an article published by NPR, an average American was eating 207.7 pounds of meat per year in 2010 (Barclay). After research came to light linking cholesterol and saturated fat found in meat products to heart disease, new food and health guidelines have suggested lowering the amount of meat eaten in the average diet. The new USDA food guidelines, “MyPlate,” were formed in 2010 and propose eating 5 ½ oz. of protein foods a day for a basic 2,000 calorie diet. In their description of what type of protein foods to eat, they promote more fish consumption, varying protein sources to include plant-based proteins, and keeping “meat and poultry portions small and lean.” While this is an improvement from past food guidelines, it is not enough. The USDA is continuing to do Americans a disservice by promoting meat consumption in general because it leads to serious health problems, cruelty to animals, and environmental degradation.
One of the largest, most studied, and tangible arguments against eating meat is the negative health effects it has on the human body. Its consumption has been linked to obesity, cancer, and many organ disorders. According to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, there is a positive association between meat consumption and obesity (Wang and Beydoun 621). The same study found that eating meat has been related to higher risks of many chronic diseases, but increasing the consumption of plant-based foods like “vegetables, fruits, cereals, nuts and legumes” have been related to less risk for many chronic diseases like “ischemic heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many cancers” (625). The CDC has noted that more than a third of the adults in our country are obese. The consumption of meat is a huge factor in this statistic. Obesity leads to a number of other health problems as well as a poor quality of life for many individuals. Even if a meat-eater is not obese, they are at a higher risk of certain cancers and heart disease. An article in the British Journal of Cancer found an association between eating processed meat and increased risk of pancreatic cancer (Larsson and Wolk 603). Red meat isn’t the only culprit in these health cases. In a study conducted through the American Journal of Epidemiology, chicken and fish consumption has been linked with colon cancer (Singh and Fraser 761). With the plethora of information and evidence out there of the health risks of eating meat, the USDA is continuing to promote its consumption. These problems cost Americans their health, their way of life, and their wallet when it comes to insurance costs. These risks could be curbed if meat consumption was severely cut.
Another argument against meat consumption is the animal welfare side. The treatment of most factory farmed meat and livestock is nothing short of appalling. Gail Eisnitz’s (chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association) book Slaughterhouse is filled with first-hand accounts of the terrible and disturbing conditions within factory farms. Chickens live in overcrowded cages on top of their own feces and their beaks are cut or burnt off with no anesthetic to prevent them from pecking at each other. Chickens are not covered under the Humane Slaughter Act, meaning they are fully conscious when being killed. Baby male chicks are thrown into the garbage and forgotten in egg-laying factories because they can’t lay eggs, therefore don’t create a profit. Pigs and cows are stunned with a bolt shot into their skull to render them unconscious before being slaughtered, but, in the heat of the moment, some go through fully conscious. When they’re strung up by their legs, they are still struggling and moaning when a factory worker slits their throats so they can bleed out. Beth Roberts, MLS, summed it up well when she said factory farming “has