I’ll be the first to say it: I love meat. Like, I really love it. I’m from Montana, where I’m pretty sure the food pyramid is just five different preparations of steak. When I came to UP in 2017, I would never touch “fake meat” with a six foot pole. But a few months ago, I stopped eating meat entirely. Here’s why.
It’s no secret that the world is burning. Climate change is no longer a topic of debate, but a rapidly approaching certainty. The aspect that’s hardest to swallow is that, as individuals, it doesn’t feel like we can do a lot about it without a significant push from corporations, several billions of dollars and a time machine.
It’s more than scary; it’s terrifying. But that doesn’t mean we give up. It means quite the opposite.
Here are the facts: A comprehensive analysis of farming and food systems by Oxford University in 2018 concluded that the single most effective action an individual can take against climate change is eliminating animal products from their diet — beef in particular. Cows used for both dairy and beef emit methane, a primary greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.
Beef doesn’t only emit greenhouse gasses; it takes an incredible amount of resources. In 2017, 50 percent of earth’s habitable land was inhabited by livestock. The Union for Concerned Scientists reported that beef cows are often fed huge amounts of corn to fatten them up quickly, using incredible amounts of land resources to create even one pound of beef.
Our fixation with meat products has also grimly distorted biomass distribution on Earth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even reported that sixty percent of all mammals on earth are domesticated livestock. Thirty-six percent are human. Only four percent are wild animals.
I recognize that I just threw some overwhelming numbers at you, so here’s the summary; meat and many other animal products are not a sustainable dietary option for the human race. Luckily enough, we live in an age of innovation and information and there are other options.
(As a side point, anybody claiming to be an animal lover should choose to avoid mass-produced animal products anyway. I’m not going to go full PETA here, or link one of those slaughterhouse videos that makes you want to fast for a month. I’m just pointing out that the majority of the animals you are consuming have not led long or fulfilling lives on, like, a small farm like Little House on the Prairie. These are Sad cows with a capital ‘S.’ Let’s leave it at that.)
At this point, you might be like, “Okay, Gabi. I get it, I shouldn’t eat the tasty cows. But what am I supposed to eat instead?” Meat alternatives are scary, I know — especially tofu. Why does it feel like that? Why is it packaged swimming in suspicious liquid? What is it actually made of?
I’m here to proclaim that tofu is okay. More than okay; dare I say it, tofu is good! You only have to season and prepare it like you do any other meat. (You guys do season your food, right? Right?)
I’m not asking you to switch to an entirely plant-based diet. I know it seems overwhelming, and I also know how hard it is to quit bacon-cheeseburgers cold turkey. So start small. Cut out beef first, then cut out pork. Practice meatless Mondays, then meatless weekends. For extra points, stop drinking cows’ milk. Ask your barista for coconut or oat milk in your lattes. I promise you, it’s easier than it seems. And it’s worth it.
As students of the University of Portland, you’re in a city catering to a plant-based diets. Bon App has their flaws, but they provide meatless alternatives in every meal. In the mornings, opt for a veggie breakfast sandwich. Give soy curls a try. Throw some field roast into your sandwiches. Close to campus, my personal favorite veggie options are at East Side Delicatessen. I swear their Veg-Italian or Vegan BBQ will satisfy your most dire meat cravings.
When you change your diet, finding restaurants is hard — is it good food, or is it just good vegetarian food? Below, I linked my favorite Portland restaurants that are meatless and also really, really good.
- Homegrown Smoker: completely meatless and on Lombard, so you can complete your breakfast burrito cravings without any of the guilt.
- East Side Delicatessen: See above. Is this article sponsored by East Side? I wish.
- Vegan Gorditos: By far the hardest part of cutting meat out was saying no to Mexican food (an almost impossible feat for me). With this all-vegan food cart on Halsey, you don’t have to.
- The Sudra: Vegan Indian food in homey St. Johns.
- Sizzle Pie: Sizzle Pie has something for everybody. The meat-lovers in your group will be happy, and you can order a vegan pie and revel in the superiority of not having animal murder on your hands (kidding).
Don’t have the funds to be eating out everyday? Me neither. Venture to Fred Meyer’s and get your protein outside of the meat and dairy aisle: Oats, lentils, almonds, broccoli, quinoa, brussel sprouts, peanut butter, edamame, or beans can all boost your energy and muscle growth on their own.
The planet is beyond capacity. We can’t change the choices of the generations before us, but we can try to remedy them. Give it a shot.