My Meatless Story
First things first, I grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana, eating meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—as common as salt. Then I met Amy on the first day of my freshman year at Stanford University. We lived in the same freshman dorm and were quick to become best friends. Amy and I made an interesting pair, the beef girl from Montana and the vegetarian hippie with an organic vegetarian food company—a pretty stark contrast. I have spent the past three summers with Amy and her family in Petaluma and I have dabbled in the world of Amy’s Kitchen. Amy and I wrote copy for new products my first summer, last summer I interned in the Marketing department, and this summer I am interning in both Sales and Marketing. During these summer months I was a vegetarian but when I went back to school in the fall I would return to eating meat. It wasn’t until this summer that I made the decision to maintain a meatless diet.
I can’t expound long enough on the variety of new foods that were introduced to my palette since I became friends with Amy and her family. There were so many veggies, greens, grains, and sources of protein to which I was completely oblivious. Salad at home was iceberg lettuce, and dinner was always a slice of meat, usually beef, potatoes, and a side of canned vegetables. The idea of going a whole day without meat had never even entered my mind. I couldn’t picture a meal without it, whereas Amy has been a vegetarian her whole life. During my vegetarian summers, especially the first summer, I was amazed by the variety of food and meals that didn’t involve meat! It was delicious…and meatless…and I wasn’t sickly and blowing away. There are misconceptions that you can’t live healthily without meat, when actually it is opposite, you can live healthier!
The decision to go meatless was not always an obvious choice for me. I am a native Montanan, born and raised 20 miles outside of a small town of 150 people, where there were more cows than people and open landscape as far as the eye could see. I was smack dab in the middle of Big Sky country and the idea of pollution and damage to the environment was far from my mind. There was a sense of purity in the earth I walked on and the air I breathed. It was a different world; when I looked out my window I saw crystal blue skies, cows roaming the grassy fields, and deer prancing across the dirt road. I never really thought twice about eating meat… it was just what we did. My family’s livelihood has derived from cattle ranching for four generations and hamburger and steak was the staple diet in our house. The meat I ate came from cattle that were raised out my back door. Little did I know, the cows I looked at everyday were contributing to global warming more than the car I drove to school. The meat industry accounts for nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change. This is more than transportation. I wasn’t seeing the whole picture.
I don’t call myself a vegetarian; I just have chosen to not eat meat. I do not need it and I enjoy other foods just as much, if not more, and in making this choice, I know I am doing my part in the fight against global warming. I recycle because I care about the environment and I consider not eating meat to be a similar practice. Yes, my parents earn their living from cattle ranching, but the way I think about it is that every pound of meat I don’t eat is one less pound of animal that is going to have to be shipped across the country to one of the seven feed lots that monopolize the meat market. I had been pondering the idea of maintaining a meatless diet while researching the John Hopkins Meatless Monday campaign (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/), but it was not until I watched the film Food Inc. that I officially made the decision to cut meat from my diet. The film gave me the final push and really made me think about the choice I was making every time I lifted a fork to my mouth—not only with meat but in regard to eating locally grown and organic.
I used to think, I am only one person, what difference could it make, but now I realize that is exactly the point, I am one person, and I want to do my part to reduce my carbon footprint. During World War I and II the first Meatless Monday was implemented in order to urge citizens to cut their consumption to help with the war effort. Today going meatless will help in the fight against global warming. One doesn’t have to go completely meatless, just one day a week does make a difference. The planet and your body will be thanking you as eating less meat will reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Each year by eating vegetarian proteins, like soy, rather than red meat I will conserve 123,480 gallons of water, 3,005,836 calories of fossil fuel, and consume 74,250 less calories. Those are some big numbers… and I am only one person.
Check out what Michael Pollan had to say to Oprah about Meatless Mondays.
A few numbers to consider-
The average American consumes 63.5 pounds of red meat every year
To produce 16 oz of soy requires = 220 gallons of water
To produce 16 oz of red meat requires = 2000 gallons of water
Fossil fuel to produce 8 oz prime-cut beef = 24,000 calories
Fossil fuel to produce 8 oz tofu = 332 calories
8 oz of tofu contains about 150 calories
8 oz of prime-cut beef contains more than 500 calories