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When your kids ask “What’s for dinner?”, your answer is probably “pork chops,” or maybe “meat loaf.” The meat is usually the featured course, right?
Well, there’s increasing evidence our love affair with meat isn’t so healthy for us or the planet.
The reason? Industrialized farming. Our growing appetite for cheap hamburgers and chicken has spawned the growth of huge factory farms. Missouri and Illinois, by the way, are home to hundreds of them.
Factory animals are raised in crowded conditions and – in the case of cattle – fed grain instead of grass. They’re also given antibiotics so they can survive in these conditions. The downside for us is development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
These operations also use up vast amounts of corn, soy and other grains. One third of the world’s arable land grows feed-grain for animals, not food grain for people.
Then there’s the pollution. One billion tons of toxic manure come from factory farm animals each year, as does methane, their “digestive byproduct.” Livestock generates nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gasses, more than cars and trucks.
So, should we all turn vegetarian? No. But we could each eat a bit less meat. Just one less meat meal per week is the same as taking over five million cars off the road. And we could make sure our beef, chicken and pork come from small farmers who use free-range and grass-fed methods. It’s a healthier diet – for us and the planet.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Liz Forrestal is Executive Director for Missouri Votes Conservation, a non-profit that advocates for pro-environmental legislation in Missouri. She also participates in a number of community environmental groups, and is a board member of Audubon Missouri.