I watched the incredible documentary “Before the Flood” when it came out last year. It had a deep impact on me and led me to double-down on having a more environmental friendly behavior.
One part in particular really got me… it’s the bit when we see the impact of beef on the environment compared to other types of produce.
DiCaprio introduces us to Gidon Eshel, a Research Professor of Environmental Science, who published a report detailing how beef is 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of live stock! 10 times! That means that every time I had a good old burger (and boy, do I love burgers) I was causing 10 times more damage than what I should.
This paragraph really sums it up for me:
Of all the reasons for tropical deforestation, the foremost is beef. Beef is one of the most inefficient use of resources on the planet. In the US, 47% of land is used for food production and, of that, the lion’s share is just to grow feed for cattle. The things that we actually eat – fruit, vegetables, nuts – it’s a per cent. Most importantly, cows produce methane. And methane is a powerful greenhouse gas…About 10-12% of total US emissions is due to beef. It’s staggering…Maybe not everyone is ready to eat tofu 24/7. I get that. But even if you just have to have some flesh between your teeth, if you switch to chicken, you will have eliminated 80% of what you emit, depending on where you are coming from.
I urge you to also watch this 7min clip of Mr. Eshel’s presentation on the impact of food. It’s incredible the impact that every one of us could have on the environment if we just ate less animals.
So with all of the above in mind, I decided to drastically cut down the amount of beef I eat. I’m not a vegetarian but I already have a diet that is heavily weighted towards animal-free ingredients. This next step -cutting down beef – was more of a way to have rules in place that helped me (and hopefully inspired others) to reduce their carbon footprint.
I used to have at least 5-6 meals a month of beef. Since I started this in November, I’ve reduced that number to 1 meal a month. I believe in moderation and that if we all had more balanced behaviors then we probably wouldn’t face half of the issues we face today. I think 12 meals a year of beef is an acceptable number. Perhaps next year I’ll move on to 1 meal every 3 months and then my footprint will be even lighter.
There’s another win that comes with it: every time I have a burger I really savor it. It’s a delightful moment. I tend to pick carefully where I’ll get my next burger from too; my favorite at the moment is a homemade one that includes bacon minced together with beef. My girlfriend cooks those to perfection.
I’ve had friends who don’t eat beef ask me what else can they do. My answer: Don’t eat beef? That’s cool, maybe cut pork instead? As long as you are heading towards a vegetable based diet you are in the right direction. The point is: you can make a difference.