How you can eat less red meat (and why it’s a good idea)
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Eating as much red meat as we do is bad for our nutrition, workers, animals and the planet. We, as members of student government’s Department of Sustainability, call upon Notre Dame to reduce its meat consumption.
Why do we feel so strongly about this?
First, reducing red meat consumption has clear nutritional advantages. While meat certainly contains some important nutrients, cutting down consumption of red meat, especially processed meat (meat that is salted, smoked or cured to preserve flavor), has numerous benefits. Red meat is listed a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization, while processed meat in particular has been convincingly shown to lead to a 9% increased rate of colorectal cancer. Because of this, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends only eating red meat about three times a week. Additionally, research has suggested that, at least in the United States, lower red meat intake is associated with lower cardiovascular disease development.
Additionally, eating meat has some concerning ethical aspects. There are many well-known arguments about why eating animals might be wrong, or even how many of our sources of meat and dairy live in nasty, brutish and filthy conditions. What’s not as well known, however, is that the people who work in those plants also experience inhumane conditions. According to a study by Oxfam America, poultry and meatpacking workers are regularly denied bathroom breaks and other federally mandated break periods, and in 2013, 5.7 out of every 100 meatpacking workers sustained an injury or illness due to their dangerous working conditions. In fact, in 2017, meatpacking was named the most dangerous job in America — ranking above construction and other manufacturing jobs — by the National Employment Law Project based on statistics taken from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. This did not stop with the pandemic: At least 270 meatpacking employees have died from COVID-19, there were 41 major outbreaks in plants across 20 states and the majority of meatpacking companies have paid negligible amounts to the families of affected or deceased workers.
Eating less red meat is also one of the best ways to live more sustainably. Beef requires about 30 to 60 times more land and water than other forms of livestock. As a result, 71% of forested land in the Amazon is used for cattle for cattle production. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, meat is so bad for the environment that a UN report concluded that, in the West, we need to consume 90% less meat to keep the worst form of climate change at bay.
While we are not claiming that everyone should immediately stop eating meat, we urge you to reflect on your personal meat consumption and the implications it has on our world. That is why we are launching Meatless March, with which we invite people to pledge to avoid eating red meat for lunch during March. We will be highlighting new, beefless options at the dining halls during this month and will be promoting the field roast burger, a vegetarian burger being introduced by Campus Dining. It is our hope that a demonstration of student interest will allow for more sustainable dining options in the future. The administration opened Garbanzo a few years ago in response to greater demand for plant-based food. Together, we can make a real difference in how much meat we consume as a community at Notre Dame!
If you would like to take the pledge, you can do it here.
We know that it is difficult to stop eating meat. So much of our culture revolves around meat consumption — and yes, it tastes good. However, based on our collective personal experience, reducing individual intake of meat is possible. More importantly, meat production unequivocally does serious harm to our planet, to animals and to our fellow people. Thus, we believe that, as students of a faith-driven institution, we are called to eat less meat in an effort to make our great University an even greater force for good.
Student Government Department of Sustainability
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.