It’s a question I get asked all the time. But I have some questions for you. Did you know that it takes about 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of grain-fed beef? Or that we use eight times as much land to grow food for livestock than we do to grow food for humans? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to tell you that meat is evil or shame anyone who does eat it, but you have to admit these statistics are a little shocking, right?
The first time I heard about the implications that meat production has on the environment was in my sustainability class last fall. I was completely shocked. How could we possibly be using so many resources to produce meat? It just seemed so inefficient. Meat had always been part of my daily diet, as it is for many, and I never really considered the impacts that my choice to consume it could have on the environment. And it was at this moment that I first started seriously considered becoming a vegetarian.
“But being vegetarian would be way too hard” I told myself. I toyed with the idea on and off for the rest of the semester, but never gave it a try. That was until my service trip to Puerto Rico, where I spent 10 days with my classmates working on a permaculture farm where they served only vegetarian meals. The first few days went well, but by the sixth day I was sick of vegetables and couldn’t wait until I could back to eating meat again. The second to last day of the program we had dinner at a local family’s house where, alongside many veggie options, was a big plate of chicken. I felt a little guilty, but I didn’t hesitate to grab a piece.
That piece of chicken I ate on January 8th (yes, I kept track) was the last time I ate a piece of meat. I also haven’t eaten fish since then and am really happy with this decision I’ve made. I find that I am eating much better than I did before and feel good about the fact that in a small way I am doing my part to help the environment. I chose to be a vegetarian (if I can even call myself that yet I’m not sure, it’s only been 5 months) for a variety of reasons, but it’s a personal decision that I stand behind. I would never try to convince someone else that they should become a vegetarian because eating is a personal choice, but it’s also a choice that has a lot of implications on the world around us, and I think that is something worth considering.