Although I may not be vegetarian or vegan, I believe that reducing the amount of meat in your diet not only can be healthier for you, but also healthier for the climate. Meats like beef and lambs are major contributors to the emissions the agricultural sector produces (producing 40% of greenhouse gas emissions). This is done in two ways: Large animals like cows emit large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, through excrement and flatulence; and feeding animals means destroying forests to create grazing land. Because of this, livestock is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions so finding alternatives are essential for a cleaner earth.
One alternative I call is leveling down. Rather than eating a large animal like cows, try reducing a beef intake and substituting it with a smaller animal. Instead, eat more fish or chicken (chicken having the lowest carbon footprint out of the main meats). Lamb, although the second biggest contributor to emissions, produces 50% less emissions than beef. So leveling down could incorporate more lamb, fish, or chicken instead of beef. The concept of leveling down however depends on level of commitment, so if you can sacrifice beef but not lamb, that is still a step in the right direction.
Want to take it one step further? Replace meats with low-emission, high-protein substitutions. Eggs, tofu (or any soy-based meat like soy chorizo), and beans are great options to get protein all while being environmentally-conscious.
Switching is a luxury
It is worth noting that some people cannot make these switches as systems like capitalism makes being environmentally-conscious and healthy as a luxury that few can afford. Thus efforts to reduce the costs should be made. If you are not in an economic standing to get ethically-sourced meat, great cost-effective meat alternatives are tofu and legumes. Tofu is often cheaper than beef and chicken. Legumes are a great source of protein! Fava beans, lentils, and chickpeas are cheap legumes that have almost the same amount of protein as beef.
Although the livestock and meat industry produce a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, capitalism and economic inequities make it difficult to say “cut out meat”. Leveling down meat and even cutting meat out of your diet is not something everyone can do, thus finding ways to acknowledge that and reduce these inequalities is the only way to truly solve this issue. Through cheap meat alternatives, knowing when to level down, and advocating for the increased accessibility of healthy, eco-friendly products are ways to reduce these greenhouse emissions.
Written by Lugardo Marroquin ‘24