This GREAT NY Times article (written by a meat eater) ran awhile back on the environmental costs of meat eating and I would encourage you all to read it...We went vegetarian years ago for environmental and health reasons, as well as some info on factory farming that really grossed me out that I wasn't aware of before.
Our health has never been better since going veg (and since then vegan)...other factors involved of course like eating all-organic, taking probiotics, drinking lots of water, being as active as possible, and MANY others, but I know a huge part of it was the veg switch. I also feel so much lighter after eating, have more energy, and overall enjoy food more! Plus, our diet is naturally cholesterol-free and on average vegetarians/vegans are said to live longer...so there are many benefits of a veg diet!
Unfortunately, there is some concern/misinformation out there about it though...A balanced vegetarian/vegan diet provides you with more than the adequate amount of protein (meat eaters actually get MUCH more than their bodies need) and nutrients. As Americans, we're taught that every meal has to have some sort of meat or poultry for it to be complete, which is not true. Every meal needs a protein source and animals aren't the only source of this - grains, legumes (BEANS), and nuts all contain tons of protein.
Looking back, I really wish I had been aware of exactly what I was putting into my mouth when I ate those chicken strips years ago and how that chicken was raised, treated, and killed on the factory farms. Anyway, I think it's something to think about. I really believe "you are what you eat" and it's so important to truly think about the food you fuel your body with - where it came from, how it was grown/raised, etc. etc. - whether it be meat, vegetables, beans, fruit, chicken - whatever.
Many of you might already know about factory farms and it might not make a difference to you, but for those of you who don't know (because I'm pretty sure there are some), check out this website on factory farming conditions and then here's some more info on factory farms in the U.S....I won't go into the details here - they're pretty disgusting, shocking, and there's alot of cruelty involved - but please read for yourselves and see how you feel afterwards. I would be interested to hear if you still feel the same way about meat eating. Some people say "well, they're JUST animals..."...but would you treat your beloved dog or cat how factory farms treat animals? No, you wouldn't, so what's the difference with a cow or a chicken? Animals are animals...or at least that's how I see it.
As far as the environment, we know that our impact on the earth has been far less since we switched. I've seen it said many times that probably the GREENEST thing that someone can do is to go veg and I believe it...because you're living so much lighter on the earth if you eat vegetarian/vegan. It takes alot more resources to produce let's say 5 pounds of beef protein than it takes to produce 5 pounds of bean protein, and the beef protein production is FAR more polluting to the earth.
Many people just can't imagine giving up meat/poultry for any reason though, let alone health or environmental causes, so if you're one of those, then consider seeking out a local organic farm to supply you with your meat, eggs, chicken, cow's milk, etc., and look for grass-fed beef, and free-range eggs and chickens...You'll be living ALOT lighter off the earth that way than if you buy from the factory farms, even the organic ones! BUT keep in mind that "organic" (even local ones) does not equate "animals being treated humanely" - but in general, definitely more so than factory farms.
Further, I would challenge you to start by making a couple meals every week veg...or goodness, even one day of meals...and that will lessen your environmental impact a GREAT deal! Or even better, go completely vegetarian/vegan - your body and the earth will thank you for it :). It's really easy and FUN and YUMMY honestly - if you ever want any recipe suggestions, just let me know!
This post was NOT intended to guilt any meat eaters out there, but rather get the info about factory farms and their effects on the environment out there...because, as I said, I truly wish I had been aware before...
Oh and the pics are yummy organic veggies from our local farmer's market we've been blessed to eat lately...