Animal agriculture is responsible for eighteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. Cattle is responsible for roughly fifty percent of those emissions. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). For years, people have turned a blind eye towards the environmental and health problems surrounding the beef and dairy industry. It was not until recently had I gave this issue the attention it deserved and vowed off beef and day by day started to limit my dairy intake. This was no easy feat, and it certainly challenges the way of the American culture and how we live our lives. Whenever I bring up topics that have to do with cutting out beef and dairy from my diet, I am met with scoffs and avoidance, which is understandable because these foods are ingrained in American culture. Every Fourth of July my parents grill up fat juicy burgers, like the majority of America. My friends and I had a tradition of going to the local diner and ordering up tall chocolate milkshakes completed by a mountain of whipped cream and an artificially dyed cherry that rested on the top.
If people understood the effects of the beef and dairy industry staying on the same track it is now, maybe their views would change. This shift from a beef/dairy consumer to a non beef/dairy consumer has been a recent change for me, but it did not happen in one day. I had watched documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives, while also doing some research online in different reputable websites. It was not easy making the shift, and required a true understanding of why I was doing what I was doing and for what cause. Cattle pose a threat to the land through deforestation, our water supply, out ozone layer, and our health. The maintenance of cattle uses approximately 30% of the earth’s land, and it takes approximately 150 gallons of water in the process to produce one single hamburger, while only one gallon to grow an orange (USGS). To make a burger is eight times more water used than taking an eight-minute shower, these numbers rise steadily every day. In my time researching, I found it important to understanding how to feed my body correctly with other foods besides beef and dairy.
There are many other options besides dairy such as almond milk. Almond milk actually has 50% more calcium than dairy milk. You can also get calcium through dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach. It is actually easier for your body to absorb calcium through non-dairy products. You can also substitute beans, poultry, nuts, and fish for beef. Not only do these foods contain the same or more protein as beef, they also are much lower in saturated fat which your heart will thank you for later.
The beef and dairy industry is indeed a problem and a very real threat to the world we live in and our bodies. Yes, we should look towards the beef and dairy industry to change their destructive ways, but we also must look towards ourselves. A way for there to be less of an impact on the environment from these practices is to decrease the demand for these goods while also spreading advocacy for this cause. Change does not happen overnight or through force; Change happens through educating oneself on the issue at stake.