A Meatless Day Keeps Global Warming at Bay?

Want to save the planet? Take a day off from meat, suggests a world-renowned climate change expert.

(Kim O'Donnel)

In an interview last week with Britain’s The Observer, Rajendra Pachauri recommends one meatless day per week to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,” says Pachauri in the Sept. 7 article.

Chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, Pachauri argues that the world’s livestock is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a statistic echoed in a 2006 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we like our meat here in USA. In its 2001-2002 Agriculture Factbook (the most recent one published), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) puts it this way: “America is a Nation of meat eaters.” Per capita total meat consumption (red meat, poultry, and fish) in 2000 was 195 pounds (boneless, trimmed-weight equivalent), “57 pounds above average annual consumption in the 1950s.”

More recent statistics indicate similar patterns: According to data compiled by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, total meat consumption was 199.9 pounds (16.1 of which was fish) in 2005. Translated, that’s slightly more than 1/2 pound per day.

As many of you know, I like my meat just fine, but these statistics are giving me cause for pause. Then there’s the 2005 CDC study to consider, which revealed that just 27 percent of Americans ate vegetables three or more times per day.

What do you think? Do you think Pachauri’s argument bears consideration? Should we start a “Meatless Monday” feature here in the blog space for encouragement and enlightenment? Talk to me, rabid carnivores and herby plant-eaters. I’m all ears.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 18, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Eco-Bites , Meatless Monday , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Shouldn't that be 1/2 pound of meat per day? (195-200 pounds into 365 days gives about 8.6 ounces.) Quibbles aside, it's an interesting question.

I'm definitely a meat eater, made a nice Trieste-style goulash last night, but want a balanced diet. The big struggle, to be honest, is in all the work of putting together the main event with the intention of throwing together quick vegetable side while the main is cooking. Sadly, I too often run out of gas and eat an unbalanced meal.

I like the idea of reserving one day of the week for vegetables. We picked up a few Moosewood cookbooks recently and are itching to try some more of these recipes.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | September 18, 2008 7:56 AM

I will do my best to make sure my livestock are happy and farting more to offset all you fools who are going meatless to help with global warming.

My friends and I are doing are best to make sure are carbon output triples this year and again next year.

So we ask all of you dont give up meat, fart more and cook that meat outdoors on a Weber kettle with hardwood charcoal.

Al Gore was wrong! And so is Obama. Wait, wait wow that a great fart!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 8:30 AM

When I read this, the children's song, "Today is Monday", popped into my mind. But when I googled it, all the lyrics I found were different from what I remember from the record we listened to incessantly in the late forties. There used to be a day for lamb chops and salad was never mentioned way back then!

Posted by: Fran | September 18, 2008 10:04 AM

Go for it! As a committed vegetarian who IS worried about the environment, I strongly encourage the rest to consider changing their eating habits. What's more, if this creates broader exposure to vegetarian cuisine, and makes people more comfortable with the idea (and with that, more comfortable with sharing a meal with me), then I see only bonuses.
I don't work in the meat industry though, obviously.

Posted by: EF | September 18, 2008 10:06 AM

BB: This is why I'm not a mathematician. I did those numbers over and over in my head, and kept coming up with the wrong numbers. Sigh. Yes, you're absolutely right: the daily consumption per day comes in around .55, just over 1/2 pound. I'll change it in the text. Cheers.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 18, 2008 10:08 AM

Many Americans simply don't know HOW to go meatless. If it doesn't have meat in it, it's not a meal. My husband tends towards the carnivore, and it is only recently when I have gotten him to accept the occassional meatless dinner. When we do have vegetarian, there's usually a dairy or egg component, like cheese ravioli or frittata. The idea of a bean meal does not appeal to him, and you can forget any of the "meat substitutes" like tofu.

I don't really like most meat, though I do eat it. So we do a lot of meals where I can remove the meat component, or I make a dinner from sides, or I toss my veggies on the grill next to his meat.

Meatless Monday sounds like a great idea, to get Americans thinking about expanding their diet. Even if they don't agree with the evironmental message, there are lots of other reasons to consume less meat.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | September 18, 2008 10:59 AM

I think the meatless monday is a great idea. we have been cutting meat out of our diet, mostly for cost and health reasons. i have really taken inspiration from some of the meatless items posted on the blog, like the recent eggplant dish. i think it would be a nice balance for readers.

Posted by: RB | September 18, 2008 11:12 AM

Great idea! I'm a vegetarian so I look forward to sharing more recipes.

Posted by: Marcia Enyart | September 18, 2008 11:59 AM

First - yes. Definitely. You should do a meatless day / week / month.
"..argument bears consideration"?
Um...assuming that "anonymous" (830) was being cynical / satirical, when the 1 billion Chinese and 1 billion Indians decide that they need to replicate our meat consumption, then will you decide to go meatless? (note, it'll probably be pointless then).
Soapbox: The U.S. should be the leaders - by example. Reducing meat consumption reduces your / our carbon footprint.

Posted by: RJ | September 18, 2008 12:16 PM

I wouldn't mind doing one vegetarian meal a week. While I am a meat eater, I do like veggie dishes too. I love the idea of meatless monday, I would love some ideas of ways to do veggie dishes that are satisfying.

Posted by: merluvs2cook | September 18, 2008 1:07 PM

Just so everyone knows, I'm a big jerk. That's why I keep popping into Kim's comments to complain about stuff and misrepresent her work. So look for me in this same place several times a week, adding stupid, off-topic and inane observations. Ain't the Internet grand! Fart.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 1:54 PM

When we started this trend in our house I was the die hard carnivore. It was only until I discovered that when my future in-laws were vegetarian, vegan at the time, and coming for dinner for the first time. The initial struggle was to find meatless alternatives that were satisfying for everyone but after that we've found ourselves eating this way several times each week.
I began a blog to keep track of my recipes at
Vegan Visitor.com

Posted by: Dayna | September 18, 2008 2:24 PM

RE:Mexican Mortar and Pestle, Q from Detroit. These are made from volcanic rock and intended for grinding spices and dry grains, not avacados. Use a fork or potato masher and bowl to crush avocado flesh. And yes, if you grind heavily you do abrade the surface from the mortar.

Posted by: Paul Corsa | September 18, 2008 2:32 PM

It was actually all the environmental reasons that got me to go vegan in the first place. It seems like every six months or so there's a new study on the environment and meat consumption.

You might be interested in Meatless Monday run by Johns Hopkins's school of public health and the PBJ campaign. They both advocate adding one (or more) meatless meals to your week. Both of them are pretty weak on recipes though, so doing it here would be great.

Posted by: mollyjade | September 18, 2008 2:43 PM

worth noting that meatless day won't make that big of a difference. meatless/dairyless day will.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 18, 2008 4:40 PM

I like the idea of a meatless day. But that picture of the ribs has me thinking, maybe tomorrow.

Posted by: Dave | September 18, 2008 4:41 PM

So I've talked it over with my editor and we're going to give Meatless Monday a shot, starting next week. This will be your chance to exchange meatless recipes, ideas and tips. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 18, 2008 4:50 PM

the meatless monday website:

I receive the newsletter and they have many recipes and lots of information.

Posted by: Budd Lake, NJ | September 18, 2008 5:52 PM

830 poster. Global warming is a croc. The earth has been warmer in last 15000 years.
Are humans responsible for some it yeah. You just believe Al Gore who drives SUVs and lives in 15000 sq ft home. Do I care? Oh hell no!

What I am more concerned about is the tyranny of these Nazi greens who want to force me to convert to their lifestyle to save the planet etc. Sorry I am not going to do it. I like to eat meat and yeah some days I go meatless a little sushi and fresh pasta with a fresh tomato sauce but I make sure I fart more that day and drive my vintage BMW that has a 3%CO.

And I am serious my friends and I are doing are best to put more carbon in the air to offest you Green nazi's. Sieg Heil!

I continue to raise lifestock and encourage them to fart more. Methane gas good!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2008 7:58 AM

Fart, fart, fart, fart, fart. Felt good.

Buy a carbon offset little girl!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2008 10:20 AM

I wouldn't mind if you installed a zapper on this site.

Posted by: Dave | September 19, 2008 12:07 PM

I agree Dave. I love reading the comments on this blog for cooking tips, but its jarring and beyond annoying when you get jerks just trying to be jerks posting about things that are not on topic. i know, free speech, just ignore him. but really, can't there be one comment area on this website that doesn't have blatantly in your face mean comments? People trying to be green are Nazis??? Come on.

Posted by: RB | September 19, 2008 12:57 PM

Anonymous: It's okay to be a jerk, as you call yourself, but it's definitely not okay to continually use words like "Nazi" to make your point. If you continue, I will pursue having you banned from posting comments.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 19, 2008 1:18 PM

Kim - I figured it was a matter of A/B rather than B/A. 2 pounds seemed like a lot of meat. Today will be my first meatless Monday.

Thanks for the note on a previous blog regarding raw salmon. I'll keep to the sushi grade stuff I get at Asian markets. I wonder if the acids used for making ceviche are a solution for tapeworm. I'll have to check that out.


Posted by: Fairlington blade | September 22, 2008 10:02 AM

I am happy the topic is finally being brought up after so many years of being in the closet. I'm not really sure how many people know the horror of the meat industry. Feeding livestock instead of people? Destroying rainforest? Polluting air, land and water? Using up vast amounts of energy in processing and shipment? It's pretty logical to me why it's good for the environment and world hunger to cut back or eliminate meat eating.

Posted by: Steve | September 24, 2008 11:08 AM

I eat less meat, especially red meat, at least two days a week for health reasons. I do not understand how this lessens greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted by: She | September 25, 2008 12:40 PM

Cows emit greenhouse gases (mostly methane), eating less meat over the long-term means fewer cows on the planet through decreased demand, fewer cowes means a decrease in their emissions (just like taking cars off the road).

We eat meatless meals 2-3 times per week, but we have cut back much further by utilizing smaller amounts when we have it. We have it in stews, soups, curries, and chili, but even if we're grilling we cut back on the meat by making additional side dishes.

Posted by: Esleigh | September 25, 2008 3:02 PM

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