Slaughterhouse cattle bodies
(image by Wikipedia)
I'm far from an expert on nutrition or cooking or
vegetarianism or veganism. But I AM on a journey, shifting from
being a meat eater to being somewhere along the road to being a
vegan. That means I am far from being a pure vegan, not even a pure
vegetarian. But I'm working on eating less animal products, eating
healthier and in a way that is gentler on the planet.
This is one of a series of articles I'll be writing about my
experience. I've learned that becoming a conscious eater is a kind
of activism that impacts the environment, spending that formerly
went to big bad corporations, including Big Agra, Big Pharma,
fortune 1000 producers of processed foods, personal health, fitness
and connecting locally, just for starters. Conscious eating is a
major non-electoral way to walk your talk and make a
I just got an email from Politico, a newsflash that the FDA is
trying to get meat producers to cut back on the use of antibiotics:
" The FDA will issue two major proposals on
Wednesday in an effort to cut back on antibiotics used on
farms that can spur drug-resistant superbugs, making a final push
to limit drugs fed to animals before they're turned into steaks and
Got that? Superbugs, spurred by the use of antibiotics in
meat. Now that is reinforcement for me. I've been on my
journey, attempting to become meat and animal product free for at
least six years. It's not easy. I'm not perfect, but I'm getting
better at it.
Back in 2004 I volunteered as a driver for Dennis Kucinich
when he was visiting Philly and running in the presidential
primary. He asked to have some vegan items for his travels. The
idea of becoming a vegan was not in my mind at all, at the time.
But I did respect him for his practice.
A year or two later, Hal, a Canadian colleague who's a vegan,
took me to a vegan restaurant in Montreal. I not only survived, but
I liked it. He persuaded me to start avoiding, at the least,
chicken, which he said had the most antibiotics and drugs in them.
So I cut back on chicken, way back. It was pretty easy, especially
since I took a flexitarian approach and would occasionally
In a way, cutting out chicken as a step towards becoming
vegetarian or vegan was similar to the way I quit smoking
cigarettes. I'd smoked from about 1968 to 1976-- from age 17 to 25.
I finally quit be gradually cutting out situations where I smoked--
driving to work, talking on the phone, after a meal. That way, I
didn't just stop immediately. I'd gradually reduced the collection
of habits of smoking doing different things. Starting with chicken
and getting used to not eating it made it easier for me, down the
road, to ratchet back my consumption of all meat and dairy
Over the years I've learned that a pound of meat is profoundly
more costly in terms of environmental footprint than plant-based
food. A big part of global warming comes from meat
Then there are the health factors. Generally, health experts
say that meat should be eaten as a side dish, occasionally, not as
the main part of a meal. There are all kinds of studies which show
that if you a lot of meat, you are at greater risk for
cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and more. Just cutting out
meat, if you have any of those diseases can help to heal
If you're not clear, a vegetarian doesn't eat meat but may eat
animal products, like eggs, milk and cheese. They're called
ovo-lacto vegetarians. Some people will not eat meat from critters
with legs but they will eat fish. They are sometimes called
pescatarians or ovo-lacto pescatarians.
Vegans don't eat meat or any animal products... and don't wear
clothes made from animals, like leather.
There are all kinds of in-betweens. I'm trying to be vegan as
much as possible, but go flexitarian every now and then-- a pizza
with cheese one week, fish (wild caught, not farmed) a few times a
week, egg whites once or twice a week (like in Pad Thai and bakery
items, like brownies) and meat, preferably organic, free range,
without any drugs or antibiotics, every few weeks. On rare
occasions I'll break down and have some barbecue. I haven't
found a place that offers free range barbecue brisket
While I'm at it, I also try to eat organic, and am careful, if
not eating organic to wash fruits and vegetables very carefully. I
used to think organic was too expensive but I've found that it
rarely adds more than two or three dollars to the cost of a grocery
Another factor I consider is GMO food. Labeling is not
reliable. You can't trust if an item does not say GMO that it is
not GMO. Some do, and organic food is much more likely not to be
GMO. Just about all soy and corn products are GMO. If you want to
learn a lot more about GMO, here's a brilliant
Monsanto and Friends Put the Frankenstein in Frankenfoods
So.... if you're already on the reduced or no meat path,
please add your comments with tips for newbies. I can use all the
help I can get.
If you're thinking about starting on the path, pick a meat to
cut out or dramatically decrease in your diet. Start treating meat
as side dishes rather than the main attraction.
If we all did this, the climate change problem would be much
less, more poor people could afford to eat, people's health would
improve and the rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes would
Here's something to chew on-- an excerpt from a Mayo Clinic article
on health impact of eating or not
A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains,
beans and legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other
nutrients. And people who eat only plant-based foods -- aka
vegetarians -- generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh
less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than nonvegetarians
Just eating less meat has a protective effect. A National Cancer
Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate 4 ounces
(113 grams) of red meat or more daily were 30 percent more likely
to have died of any cause during a 10-year period than were those
who consumed less. Sausage, luncheon meats and other processed
meats also increased the risk. Those who ate mostly poultry or fish
had a lower risk of death.
If there's a single point I'm trying to get across here, it's
that you can make a big difference for your health and the
environment, without getting religious or extreme about it and
quitting meat and animal products altogether. You can just ease off
on the gas pedal when it comes to eating animals. There are always
other options on the menu. At home, they are generally easy and
fast to cook and you will also be buying less processed foods from
big billion dollar corporations that donate to ALEC and to
politicians who protect big corporations.
Ideally, buy local, eat local and avoid stuff with a lot of
ingredients, especially the ones you don't know how to pronounce
and don't know what they are.
Next article, I'll write about how to maintain adequate
nutrition, protein and the like and to continue to enjoy some of
the aspects of meat while staying off meat. In other words, I'll be
talking about plant-based and not meat substitutes.
I know that there are many other folks on this journey who
read here. It would be nice to develop a conversation corner to
discuss and explore it together-- from getting started to recipes
and articles. One great source of information is Martha Rosenberg
, author of Born With Junk Food
So, please share your experience, recommendations of food,
books, videos, websites. And absolutely, consider writing about
Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of Storycon.org, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com
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