By Briana Wrubleski
Three billion animals are slaughtered every day worldwide for human consumption. The number three billion is roughly half of the world’s human population.
This number is heart-stopping to me, is it to you?
It makes me think, “Do we need to be killing and eating this many animals?”
Is this number necessary for human survival?
It is likely that most people in the U.S. grew up eating animal meat every day and perhaps at every meal. But at what cost? We know now, more than ever, how meat consumption negatively impacts both human and environmental health.
Don’t get me wrong: animal meat can provide essential nutrients like protein and B vitamins, and can be part of a balanced diet. However, it is possible for us to eat too much of a good thing.
There is a need to decrease our animal consumption. The first way to shift to a more meatless diet for the sake of our health is to eat less red meat.
While all meat can be included in a balanced diet, there are some that pose more risk than reward, especially when consumed in excess. Countless research studies have shown that red and processed meats pose the greatest risk.
Red meats tend to have high concentrations of saturated fat, which when eaten in excess can lead to higher risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even some cancers. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” and processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans.”
So what can you do? Transitioning to a plant-based diet can be a challenge at first.
It was for me, too.
The biggest advice I can give to people transitioning is to take it slow. Try replacing half the amount of ground beef in your tacos with black beans, grill chicken instead of steak, or maybe even try to make a meatless meal. Whether your steps toward reducing your meat consumption are big or small, they are still a reduction.
Another way to reduce one’s animal consumption is to eat smaller portions of meat.
According to the World Economic Forum, over the last 50 years, the number of people on the planet has doubled, though the amount of meat we eat has tripled.
Our meat consumption in the U.S. exceeds the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommendation by 20-60%. A serving size of animal protein is about 3 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards – yet many of us consume nearly double or triple this amount in one serving. A 3 ounces serving should leave room on your plate for whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
However, as meat intake has increased, individuals’ consumption of the latter is suffering, which may lead to nutrient deficiencies. Excessive protein in one’s diet may also lead to excessive calorie intake, which is then stored as fat.
Again, this may lead to obesity or chronic diseases. Aiming to consume a 3-ounce portion of meat can help to reduce overall meat consumption and also optimize health benefits.
Meat, dairy, fish, and eggs provide 40% of protein consumed globally, though plant-based diets and meat alternatives are growing in popularity. Completely eliminating animal meat from our diet is not practical in all parts of the world.
I recognize that there are cultural, religious, and individual moral reasons which will always take precedence in this movement toward plant-based diets. Changing a behavior many of us grew up with is challenging.
However, it is important for us to think about this not only on an individual level, but also on a
nationwide level. Making a change requires a deeper understanding of not only how it benefits you and your health, but also how it benefits the health of our country and world.
It is important to remember that small steps count, and any transition toward a plant-based diet will help to reduce the number of animals slaughtered each day.