[Green Girl] Fewer Cow Pies, More French Fries


One major solution to the problem of global warming is making small changes in our own homes. A multitude of things—cars, factories, power plants—heavily contribute to global-warming pollution. We've heard a lot about driving less, changing our light bulbs, recycling. Even our weekly grocery trips have come under scrutiny. We've talked about the importance of incorporating organic and locally grown foods into our diets. But the issue is bigger than that. A major contributor to global warming is … the cow.

Ninety percent of the world's grain goes toward feeding livestock, thus contributing to the inefficiency of raising animals as food. Producing one pound of beef requires an input of over 10 pounds of grain. This means that farmers use 10 times more fossil fuel, fertilizer and cropland to raise cows instead of corn or wheat. Ten times more carbon dioxide releases into the atmosphere from tractors and other farm vehicles used to produce the grain to feed the livestock. And in the developing world, acres upon acres of trees are clearcut every day for grazing pastures, thus releasing more greenhouse gases. There is a case to be made for eating less meat just based on carbon dioxide pollution alone.

But even more dangerous than carbon dioxide is methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is not talked about nearly as often. And what is the world's No. 1 source of methane in the atmosphere? Livestock excretions.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to approach, and your changes can have a huge impact. As with all green lifestyle choices, it is not all or nothing. Switching from a standard American meat-eating diet to a vegetarian or vegan diet can have more of an impact on global warming than switching from an SUV to a hybrid. But let's get serious. Am I really going to be able to inspire a massive vegetarian following in Mississippi? A huge cult of tofu converts? Probably not. So what can you do?

Eat less meat.
It is cheaper and healthier. The average American gets far more protein than they need anyway. Vegetable lasagna is a healthy and delicious alternative to your favorite lasagna with meat sauce. Alternate your turkey sandwiches at lunchtime with egg salad sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a veggie sub.

Eat less energy-intensive meat.
Chicken and smaller fish are easier on the environment than cows, pigs and large, predatory fish. Larger animals consume more resources and also poop more. That's where the methane comes in. So trade your steak for some chicken.

Eat local animal products that haven't traveled very far.
The Mississippi Farmer's Market and the Belhaven Market both offer free-range eggs from many vendors such as Abbey Farms and Flying M Farm. Flying M also offers local organic meat such as lamb and beef.

Eat ethnic when you eat out.
Often it is easier to find options for meatless cuisine at Indian, Mexican and other non-American restaurants.

Don't be intimidated.
Check out a new cookbook from the library, or find a few interesting meat-free recipes online. Ask your friends or neighbors about their favorite non-meat meals.

So before you throw those pork chops into your shopping cart this week, stop and think about that choice. Your small decisions can make a big impact.

Local Resources
High Noon Café,
2807 Old Canton Road,

Rainbow Whole Foods Coop,
2807 Old Canton Road,

Online Resources


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment