With mouth watering steak, juicy burgers and beef tacos simply just existing, it’s easy to see why there is such a debate over red meat and whether it should be forgotten or remain favored. My stance though is that it should be kicked to the curb- and for more reasons than one. So, meat lovers, prepare to be disappointed and, hopefully, enlightened while I share my input on why we should all try to limit our red meat intake.
On the health aspect of things, as good as red meat may look and taste, it doesn’t sit very pretty once in your stomach. By having a high intake of red meat, studies have shown that you are subsequently put at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and even premature death. This all sounds wildly concerning and while it may be wiser to cut out red and other highly processed meats altogether, just attempting to limit your intake is a great start. Red meat is dangerous because it is heavily processed and thus contains great amounts of additives and chemicals which can be very damaging to your health. Even eating grass-fed or organic beef isn’t all that it’s chalked up to be. To put it simply, it’s kind of like putting makeup on a pimple (stay with me here), you can cover up the pimple by masking it partially, but it’s never going to get rid of the pimple or make it any better. Similarly, you can eat organic or grass-fed beef, which is definitely better, but it still doesn’t relinquish any of the harms that red meat imposes upon your health; it’s really just a cover up. Then there’s always the argument that red meat is such a great source of protein and iron. While this is true, there are so many other foods that can garner just the same, if not more, protein and iron levels without any reciprocal effects.
What really did it for me was the environmental issues correlated with the production of red meat. To produce enough meat to satisfy the mouths of our beef loving society, an insane amount of cows need to be raised which requires lots of land for them to live and graze on. To get this land, many forests need to be cleared which is incredibly problematic as we know that deforestation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, fewer crops, flooding and increased greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere among other things. Cows alone produce a massive amount of methane contributing to almost 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing the need for cows is vital as carbon emissions are so closely related with climate change. Not to mention the raising of most cows is wildly unethical and no living creature should be subject to the brutality that they face.
Beef also takes an incredible amount of water to produce with being the most water intensive food production process, using two times as much water as it takes to produce pork. Raising cows also contributes to water pollution because their manure contaminates water courses.
In an attempt to combat all of the issues involved with meat production and consumption, plant-based beef was introduced. While beyond meat and impossible burgers are definitely the right idea, the focus of their efforts are slightly off. Beyond meat and impossible burgers have been very successful in creating a plant-based alternative for ground beef but this isn’t making any real difference in reducing the demand for cows. Ground beef typically comes from the remains of a cow after the more expensive cuts of meat have been taken. So, whether you eat a hamburger or an impossible burger the same number of cows are being slaughtered, it’s just a matter of whether that leftover meat is being used or not. The real difference will be made once companies are able to produce plant-based steak or any other cut of beef, but that seems to be a long way out. So, cutting out hamburgers while continuing to eat steak is unfortunately not going to make a large difference.
You can eat red meat and still have a totally healthy lifestyle and diet but you can’t expect the wellbeing of the environment to be spared as well. So, I encourage you to start enjoying other protein sources and to do this if not for yourself than for your environment 🙂