Former president Bill Clinton, once known for his love of fast food, has been making headlines with his recent dietary change. He’s swapped the Big Macs, chicken nuggets and fried shrimp for veggie burgers, beans and fresh fruits and vegetables.
After years of battling heart problems and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, Clinton took his doctor’s advice to reduce his meat consumption and increase his intake of plant-based foods. He reports that the results have been tremendous: he said he has lost 24 pounds, feels more energetic and saw a drop in cholesterol levels.
Clinton isn’t the only one turning a new leaf. From Oprah Winfrey to Ellen DeGeneres, people everywhere are eating less meat. Mike Tyson, once known for biting off a human ear, is now limiting his ear consumption to those of the corn variety.
The movement toward more plant-based meals is also taking root on college campuses. More than 200 universities, including UH, are leading the charge with “Meatless Monday” campaigns in their dining halls.
Last December, UH Dining Services launched Meatless Monday, adding delicious menu items like hearty black bean burgers, tortellini primavera and three-bean nachos, as well as promoting the meat-free fare via social media and with free food samples.
Nationally acclaimed food writers, such as The New York Times’ Mark Bittman and The Washington Post’s Joe Yonan, are helping the nation discover meat-free dishes that will leave you impatient for the next meal.
There has never been a more exciting time to expand our dining horizons. Skipping meat one day a week is not a sacrifice but an adventure, and this is reflected in the choices students are making. According to a study conducted by Technomic, more than 20 percent of college students are reducing their meat consumption, and for good reasons.
One such reason is concern for the nine billion chickens, pigs and other animals raised for food each year, most of whom suffer in factory farms. For example, mother pigs in the pork industry are typically confined in tiny crates barely larger than their own bodies for virtually their entire lives. Unable to even turn around, these sensitive, intelligent animals experience tremendous physical and psychological pain.
Most egg-laying hens suffer a similar fate. They’re crammed into tiny cages, each bird granted less space than the screen of an iPad on which to live for her entire life.
By choosing meat-free options just one day a week, we can all help prevent an enormous amount of cruelty to animals.
Humans, as well as the environment, also benefit. A report issued by Environmental Working Group put it simply: “Producing all this meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water. It also generates greenhouse gases and large amounts of toxic manure and wastewater that pollute groundwater, rivers, streams and the ocean.”
Increasing numbers of family farmers are also voicing their support for Meatless Monday as a means to achieve a more sustainable, community-based agricultural system before it’s too late.
Our current rate of meat consumption is simply unsustainable. By reducing the total number of animals raised for food, we place greater value on humane, sustainable agriculture in which animal welfare is a priority.
Thankfully, eating meatless doesn’t mean less at all. It means more, as in more choices. It means better as in better living — both for us and for animals. From chain restaurants like Chipotle and Denny’s serving up hearty vegetarian fare to Indian, Thai, Chinese and Mexican cuisine, which regularly incorporate delicious meat-free items, the options are endless. UH has a great variety of meat-free options daily, making it a cinch to get your week off to a healthy, more sustainable start.
Today would be a good day to begin.
Visit HumaneSociety.org/MeatFree for easy and delicious meat-free recipes and meal tips.
Karin Olsson is the outreach manager for the Humane Society of the United States and can be reached at [email protected]. Kenny Torrella is the food policy coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States and can be reached at [email protected].