Every Sunday, when I was growing up, my dad would cook the entire family steak or chicken and we would sit back and most likely watch football. It honestly was one of my favorite memories looking back and our love of meat seemed to define what being an American was all about. After learning about the consequences of my eating habits, I have a new understanding and way of looking at the food I eat which has made me change some of my old habits. The consumption of food in the United States seems to be centered on meat and overconsumption and has not been looked down upon until recently. After generations of heavy consumption of meat in the U.S., we are starting to see first hand and realize the negative effects this culture of eating is having not just on our health but also on the environment.
As the United States has become wealthier over the years, our obsession with meat has become unsustainable. The production of meat has now become so large-scale that the effects are becoming harder to ignore for most people. Livestock requires great amounts of food, water, land, and energy, which are putting a strain on our environment. Some of the consequences to our environment is more land is being used to not only support livestock operations, but also being used to grow the crops to feed these animals. Large amounts of water is devoted to the livestock and the grain for the feed. Many water-quality problems in the nations rivers and streams are connected to livestock operations. There is also a tremendous amount of energy that is used for feed and transportation as well as the increased methane emissions from cows passing gas. These are just a few of the endless list of environmental impacts from our obsession with meat.
There are many health effects that are being directly linked to the consumption of meat, which you can see first hand if you walk down any street in America and see a person who is obese. Health effects that are connected to meat consumption include heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer just to name a few. The argument that we need meat for protein is a reasonable one, but we only need a fraction of what we are actually consuming. In the United States, 270.7 pounds per person a year are consumed compared to India at 7.1 pounds per person. Healthcare and medical bills could be greatly reduced in the Untied States if a proper diet was attained.
Even though attitudes have changed in the U.S. around meat consumption and are consuming slightly less meat in recent years, we are still at levels that are shocking. Once a person starts to dive into the statistics and information about meat consumption, it leaves one speechless. It is easier said than done to switch our country to eating more vegetables and fruits, but the reality is that our obsession of meat is engrained in our culture. It is going to take generations to change the diets of Americans but we are making progress even if it is one step at a time. We need to educate our children while they are still young about healthy eating and proper diets so they do not become as obsessed with meat as we have. It is also up to every individual to consciously think about what they are eating instead. The United States has had a long love affair with meat consumption but there is a new culture emerging that is challenging the status quo.