To Meat or Not to Eat?

by RACHEL JENKINS '14

It seems increasingly in vogue to become a vegetarian or vegan, but the age-old questions remain: What is so bad about eating meat? Is it more than just wanting to save the cute and furry creatures of the world? If meat is bad, why does it taste so good? And of course “what about the bacon!?” The average American consumed about 276 lbs of meat in 2012 while most countries’ citizens consume under 100 lbs per year.

So why would anyone want to ditch the burgers and bratwursts anyway? A few of our very own SUA veggies talked about why they chose to banish the bacon. Sammi Mathew, class of 2014, says that she chose the green life because of humane reasons. “I’ve always wanted to become a vegetarian since I was a kid because the killing bothered me but wasn’t allowed to [go vegetarian] until I could cook for myself; so in 8th grade I made the switch.”

This is the traditional reason usually associated with vegetarianism, but there is an overwhelming amount that say they chose a meatless diet to lessen the impact on our environment and economy. Most don’t consider the effects of the omnivore lifestyle on our planet and the drawbacks on livestock. Meat production on a purely environmental scale affects agriculture in feeding the animals, water for feed irrigation and drinking, grazing mileage for feed crops and animals themselves, and finally fossil fuel usage as shown in the diagram to the left. Junior Claire Crispen, another SUA vegetarian, says one of the reasons she chose the meatless life is because companies also “do crazy things like feed chickens genetically modified food with added hormones so they grow quickly and so large that they can no longer stand to support themselves. Chickens are penned up with zero room to move around in and many die from the conditions before they even get to slaughter.”

With all these mounting impacts our eating patterns have on our resources, it is clear why 5% of Americans choose to eliminate meat. However, there are definite drawbacks to this lifestyle. It is true that humans have been eating meat for 2.3 million years and studies show that the introduction of meat to our diets may have been a large cause for the development of our more intelligent brains. Also iron is absorbed better when accompanying the consumption of meat opposed to any vegetarian supplements, like beans. Without proper iron levels, our bodies suffer drastic damages like anemia, poor oxygen count in blood, and exhaustion. If one’s protein needs are not adequately met, muscles deteriorate and kidney disease is more prevalent. When asked if she finds meatless living the way to go, Rani Perszyk, local nurse from Mercy Anderson Hospital, says, “No. As women we need an amazing amount of protein and that’s very difficult to come by without consuming meat. In the long run it’s more important to protect your body and its development.” It is often the case that vegetarians supplement the cravings for meat with carb- heavy or fattening foods which in turn can lead a person to be less healthy than if she had just stuck with the meat in the first place.

So what’s the general consensus after hearing both sides? It’s very difficult to decide right or wrong on whether to axe the meat or not. It seems apparent that Americans consume far above the healthy average of meat, but who doesn’t enjoy a well prepared steak? The answer depends on the individual. If they chose the green life they must pay extra attention to getting the nutrients they need without adding the fat and carbs they don’t. And if one chooses to stay on the side of mutton and veal, then she needs to realize that as a country we eat above the healthy amount of meat and it is important to cut back, as well as define for ourselves whether or not all meat is created equal.

In brief, whatever plate you choose, pay more attention to what’s on it and find the healthiest option for your chosen lifestyle.


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