90% Less Beef

Before I can go forward with this blog post, I have to make a couple of confessions and apologies.

I have been known to make fun of vegetarians in my life.  I’m sorry. For real, regardless of your reasons for being a vegetarian or a vegan, I’m sorry for being an asshole.

I have also been a terrible friend to the environment for the vast majority of my life.  It has never been because I didn’t believe that humans are killing our planet. It is just that in any given moment, I make terrible choices and choose convenience over the life of our planet.  I’m sorry for being an asshole.

I am trying really hard to change, and I’m starting with beef.

90% less beef

The beef industry is really terrible for the planet.  This is a fact that I have been aware of for quite some time, but I haven’t paid much attention to it.  I remember a “calculate your carbon footprint” quiz that I did at least 15 years ago, and I was surprised by how much my consumption of red meat contributed to the carbon footprint I was leaving on the planet.

So I knew, but I didn’t know, you know?

A report was released last October in international science journal Nature which looked at the impact of food consumption on climate change.  There were a number of conclusions, but the most striking was that the world needs to cut its beef consumption by 50% in order to hit targets that keep our current trajectory of climate change from being irreversible.  Western countries – specifically the United States and the United Kingdom – need to cut their beef consumption by 90% in order for the world to have any hope of meeting that target.

90% less beef.  Does that number sound ridiculous?  Does it sound impossible?

I can definitely cut 90% of the beef from my diet.

Why this is the thing that I’m choosing to go all in on when it comes to the environment, I don’t really know.  I love beef.  A well cooked medium rare steak is literally my favorite food on this planet.  And it is simply not Thanksgiving without steak.  But when it comes right down to it, most of the beef that I eat is really pretty pointless and easily replaceable.

I have a ton of privilege when it comes to the food that I eat and my ability to easily shift my diet to other (often higher priced) alternatives.  If more people like me – people who can afford the occasional Impossible Burger (which are delicious at Burgatory and only okay at Houlihan’s), who have the flexibility to introduce more plant-based protein into their diet, and who have the time and energy to make the change – we can help to drive down the price of beef alternatives and create a wider market for plant-based food.

I am, at best, in the middle of the bell curve on adoption

I am not a trail blazer.  On this particular topic, I am representative of those who are pretty much smack in the middle of the bell curve.  Lots of you have been vegetarians for climate-based reasons for years, and for other reasons even longer.  I am not trying to be in any way self-congratulatory on this topic.  As I mentioned earlier, I have been an asshole for much of my life.  But as the need to shift from beef to alternatives becomes more urgent, I realize that I need to get on board.

What I am trying to say – and to quote Bill Nye the Science Guy – is:

“…the planet is on fucking fire.  There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free, you idiots. Grow the fuck up. You’re not children any more.”

90% less beef is not free, but it’s 100% do-able – and it’s only one of a million things I’m going to need to personally change about the way I live my life.