I used to be a vegetarian, and I don’t know what I was thinking. It was about four years ago, and I flat out refused to eat meat. Looking back on it, it was quite a rash decision.
The reason I become a vegetarian was because I thought that meat production was bad for the environment. “A cow uses 100x the amount of resources than grains and that’s bad so don’t eat meat.” That’s what I was working on. “Cows release methane when they stand out in a field, and methane destroys our atmosphere so don’t eat meat.”
My decision was rooted in miseducation, and that’s where most people take a wrong turn. Don’t get me wrong – if you want to be a vegetarian, all the power to you. But know your facts, and make sure they’re working for you. If I could talk to myself four years ago, this is what I would say:
Beef cows are raised on farmland that is otherwise unusable for crops, doubling the amount of land that can be used for food in Canada. (The pastures used for grazing also store carbon that would otherwise be released to the air, so there’s a plus-one for the greenhouse gas thing.) (Beef Farmers of Ontario)
As for the methane front, here’s a fun little infographic from the IPCC Climate Change Forum 2007:
If you’re not great at graphs, the main thing you need to know is that beef production is only 4.4% of world greenhouse gas emissions. This is using FAO statistics, and breaking down the number to just emissions made by the animal itself. Most figures are beefed up (excuse the pun!) and include fertilization and deforestation in the livestock percentage. (OMAF and MRA)
So, to my vegetarian self from four years ago, please use your head. Get educated about where your food comes from and how it’s made. You’d be surprised how much you don’t know – or rather, how much you think you know but you’re actually misinformed about.
Keep Calm and Farm On,
Emma — The Suburban Aggie