Read this to find out how you can:
- Save yourself hundreds per year in food costs
- Personally save the environment a tonne in CO2 emissions each year
- Be happier and healthier
We can help being idiots
I remember scoffing when anyone told me they were a vegetarian or bought organic food, it’s human nature. We make up our minds about things based on our experiences and influences so far and our initial reaction to anything that goes against that is to reject and belittle it. It’s called cognitive dissidence and we pretty much can’t help it, at least that is until we’re aware of it and push ourselves to overcome it.
It takes a few goes of hearing new info before we even dream of giving it consideration, but once we get over ourselves we start to open our minds to differing perspectives. Then we start to build new thought patterns in our minds which form new habits, ones that are better for us, you could call it growth.
I’m still not a veggie but I’m much closer to it now than ever before. The reason is because I started hearing about what’s actually involved in producing the stuff, what happens to it before it gets to my plate, and the effect this has on the environment and my health.
I’m lucky enough to have friends who care about things and challenge my perspective. This filtered in and then I started looking things up for myself. When you do that about the meat industry it has a profound effect, because being sucked into a world where you don’t consider something to be a proper meal unless is has meat is quite the matrix to wake up from.
When it comes to impact on the environment that the farming industry has, we’re talking the major leagues. The livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution. Meat is also considered one of the prime factors contributing to the current sixth mass extinction (2006 Food and Agriculture Organization report).
Health and happiness
Of course there’s also the immediate health implications. The average person eats way more meat than they need nutritionally which leads to high rates of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers to name a few. Our bodies aren’t designed to eat that much meat. It’s quite literally against nature for it to be bred, slaughtered, packaged by the billions and conveniently placed at our fingertips everywhere we turn.
I can’t help but think that if we consumed it in moderation we’d also have a much happier and healthier relationship with nature and understand the fact that we are part of it and must respect it, rather than have this warped view that we have a godlike rule over it to do as we choose. All the evidence is showing us that this arrogance will be our downfall.
Something else to think about is the quality of the meat that’s fed to us. Mass production means that most of the time the animals are really badly treated, being kept in disgusting conditions where they suffer emotionally and physically (calves being kept in pens so small they don’t ever move to keep their meat tender until they’re slaughtered at a few months old is a particular one that gets me), fed crap to eat and heavily medicated to stop the rife diseases from spreading.
Have a think about this: approximately 90% of the total use of antimicrobials in the United States was for non-therapeutic purposes in agricultural production which is associated with increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria. This is a real threat that’s predicted to kill 10 million people a year by 2050 (source – The Guardian online).
So we’re ingesting antibiotics and getting minimum nutrition from the poor quality meat that lines supermarket shelves. And line them it does. Now that I notice it, I can’t help but feel a bit sick walking down the meat isles which are crammed full of carcasses. We’re so used to it though that most of us don’t blink an eye.
To that point its worth considering the role big business has in ensuring there’s a massacre on every dinner table. There’s a reason that meat is being so overproduced and transported across the globe. There’s profit in it, lots. The U.S. exported 1.7 billion tonnes of beef and beef variety meat in 2014. Export value of beef and beef variety meat exports reached a record $807 billion in 2014. That’s just a snap shot of beef exports from one country.
If you’re not convinced that the marketing of meat is mass production gone mad then it might surprise you to hear that supermarkets deliberately colour the plastic trays it comes in black just to make it appear more red, even though this makes the plastic “worthless for recycling” (Simon Ellin, CEO of the UK Recycling Association, source – BBC news online).
In an ideal world we’d all stop eating meat immediately
The thing is we don’t live in an ideal world, so as much as campaigns for an immediate global ban on red meat, like the one backed by Leonardo DiCaprio are well intentioned, they’re just not realistic. I agree we need to act quickly, because the time limit scientists gave us for carrying on as things are and coming out unscathed has run out (source – Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything). But, we need to adopt an approach that works. If we banned it overnight millions of people would suffer from job losses and the humanitarian crisis would be horrendous.
That aside; our brains, and massive cultural change, just don’t work like that. Climate change is such a huge, scary issue that it makes most people turn away and ignore it.
So what can we do?
This is another example where the process improvement principals called ‘Lean Thinking’ and ‘Agile’ I’ve learnt in the corporate world can be applied pretty perfectly to deal with our environmental crisis. A key concept of Lean and Agile is continuous and iterative improvement which demonstrates how hugely positive change comes very quickly from adapting step by step.
“A more effective path to change begins with small steps…these quiet steps bypass our mental alarm system, allowing our creative and intellectual processes to flow without obstruction, the result: change that’s both lasting and powerful” Robert Maurer PHD.
For me it only took about a year to go from being an ardent meat eater to an occasional one. All you need to do is start with one small step. What that step is depends on you, you have to take one that feels effortless. Whether that’s replacing a beef meal for chicken to begin with (as beef is particularly bad on all counts) or going veggie one day a week; that first step has to be something that slips past the inherent alarm in your brain that doesn’t like change. Once you’ve done this once you’ll have created a new neural pathway in your brain which makes doing it again, and more regularly, effortless too (source – Robert Maurer PHD The Spirit of Kaizan).
You’ll find yourself looking out for meat alternatives before you know it and because of all the negative effects that you know too much meat has on you and the planet, you’ll feel great about it, and the pattern from there will snowball. The added plus that makes this approach workable is that it gives people whose livelihoods depend on meat a bit of time to adjust.
I know that realistically it will take a few years for the whole world to catch on and adapt, but where’s there’s less demand for intensively farmed meat, there’s more demand for alternatives. This means there’s opportunity for prosperity in new sectors that are just emerging, or haven’t even been thought up yet. Of course this won’t be a completely smooth transition, but we have to tune into our capability to be ingenious if we’re to survive even a little longer on this planet. Doing nothing different is no longer an option.
So, once you’ve taken the first step on a new path you’ll feel better mentally and physically from eating less poor quality meat and going from being an average/heavy meat eater to an occasional one saves a tonne of CO2 being released each year.
Oh yeah – money saving, there are so many other benefits that I almost forgot to talk about this one. Eating veggie is cheaper! I know that not everyone can afford to buy fresh vegetables all the time (frozen ones are also pretty good and even better in some cases), but everyone can afford to replace meat dishes for veggie ones, because the poor quality, mistreated, medicated meat you’re fed is bloody expensive!
So, either pocket the extra cash or use it to spend on the occasional bit of organic free range local meat instead. It will taste so much better for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, and because it actually does!
If you need any more motivation to get going here’s a quote from the most go-to of clever people – Albert Einstein (Nobel prize 1921 speech): “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Anything you can do…
My other half is Mediterranean so it’s in his blood to eat LOTS of meat. I’ve tried to take him along with me on the quest to eat less, no easy feat when his culture is meat obsessed, but from us living together he’s more aware of the negatives of overeating it now so thankfully has less. This has reinforced the point of the behavioural psychology books I’ve recently read that emphasise the influence we have on the those around us, “This duty we all share is to affect others” Tali Sharot: The Influential Mind.
Collaboration is also another key concept of Lean. In business, working together to improve things bit by bit enables massive cultural change because everyone understands they play an important part in making things better. So share your experience with the people around you and with this community.
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