Today, I’m going to tackle a pretty sensitive topic for many zero wasters: meat consumption. I will preface this blog post by sharing my own meat consumption story. I grew up in a Taiwanese household. Taiwanese people LOVE meat, although they mainly consume white meat in the form of chicken or pork. I never grew up a big red meat eater, and I’m still trying to convince people that Taiwanese beef just tastes funny.
In college, I was inspired by my best friend to go vegetarian. During my sophomore year of college, I took a baby step by becoming a pescatarian, meaning I only consumed seafood but abstained from all other forms of meat. I became a vegetarian during my senior year of college. Then during my 2nd year of my master’s, I became a vegan. To sum up, that’s 2 years of pescetarianism, 2 years of vegetarianism, and 1 year of veganism.
One day (during my vegan year), at the advice of my vegetarian best friend, I went to the doctor’s for a physical. She told me it was important to make sure that I was healthy as a vegan because I was getting my nutrients from a decreased source of foods. So I got blood work done and when I got the results back, I was stunned. My iron levels and blood sugar were dangerously low. My doctor immediately asked if I was eating properly. He had me talk to a nutritionist, and I was told that with the way I was eating, I was lacking in a lot of vitamins, protein, and iron. Even though I was taking a multivitamin in addition to eating clean every day, it was still not enough! The nutritionist asked me if there were any physical changes I noticed when I started changing my diet. The only thing that I could think of was that when I became a vegetarian, I noticed my hair was thinning. I thought it was just because I had a bad reaction to a hair dye experience. As it turns out, it was due to a lack of protein consumption. The nutritionist asked me if I would consider re-incorporating meat into my diet, just a small amount, until all my numbers were in check. I agreed. Within a few months, I noticed my thick hair began growing back. My iron and blood sugar levels returned to normal. My periods also stabilized itself.
I’m not saying that if you become a vegetarian or vegan, these things will happen to you. Everybody’s body is different. But I would recommend that if you are a vegetarian or vegan, that you talk to your doctor or a nutritionist, and make sure you get regular check-ups!
It’s been almost 3 years since the health scare. I eat meat now on occasion. My husband has been so supportive of me wanting to reduce our environmental footprint, so he has agreed to reduce his meat consumption as well. What we do in our household is we eat a plant-based diet during the week, and on weekends we incorporate meat into our diets. I am healthy and I can feel good about the fact that I can am staying healthy and reducing my meat consumption.
Many zero wasters are vegan, and it’s not surprising. Veganism is an easy way to reduce your environmental footprint. But like I said before, everybody’s body is different. You cannot expect everyone in the world to become vegan. But we can all reduce our meat consumption. We can also be more picky and stringent about where we get our meat from. I am lucky that I currently live in a college town where there is a meat lab. It provides quality meat and eggs that are raised and processed by students studying meat science. I think it’s kind of neat that I am supporting the next generation of people working in the meat industry, and hopefully they can improve it to be more ethically and environmentally friendly. Another reason why I love getting my meat there is because they allow me to bring my own container, so I do shop for meat and eggs zero waste.
I understand that not everybody has access to a meat lab. I would definitely suggest meat eaters out there to shop for meat that is free-range with no hormone injections during its life. Shop small and local! I always find it odd that we don’t know where our meat comes from. If you shop local and shop small, it’s nice to know that it comes from a farmer x-miles away.
I think if you are interested in reducing your meat consumption, start with Meatless Monday. A whole day without eating meat. You can go on Pinterest and see tons of meal ideas. I’d love to hear from fellow zero wasters out there. How did you tackle meat consumption in respect to your zero waste lifestyle?