Problems with Meatless Mondays

by Ellie Bauer, University student

Students who are pushing University Dining Services to go meat-free on Mondays by 2015 are pushing an agenda. They make claims that the human consumption of meat is detrimental to our health and the environment, which are not evidence-based.

Meatless Monday advocates claim that decreasing the amount of meat we consume can decrease heart disease, strokes, cancer, diabetes, obesity and ultimately lengthen lifespan. We can’t assume that cutting out meat will cure all of these diseases. The overconsumption of anything, including meat, can increase the prevalence of disease. Too much sugar consumption can lead to diabetes. Too many calories consumed leads to obesity.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, but it shouldn’t be in America since most of us have such food security. A diet including moderate amounts of meat has numerous benefits, including increased levels of iron. This prevents the negative impacts of this deficiency, which include impaired motor and mental development, low birth weight and preterm delivery for pregnant women.

The other factor drawing people into Meatless Monday is how much good it will do for the environment. The poultry, cattle and pigs that are responsible for these emissions will still be around producing them, even if we instate Meatless Mondays.

If America’s consumers stop consuming red meat and dairy, the livestock won’t go away. We’ll export the products to other countries that need the nutrition. Unless we killed all of the livestock we hold responsible for these emissions, Meatless Monday will get us no further in the fight against climate change.

We also cannot assume the caloric needs left by not eating meat on Mondays will also disappear. We will most likely replace the calories usually eaten as meat with other food that has its own carbon footprint.

Blaming livestock producers seems like an easy way to change the world. However, if we use livestock and their products in the right way, we can have access to a nutrient-dense diet. We should remember that meat also provides people who do not have access to abundant nutrient-rich foods and are susceptible to deficiencies another option to avoid those problems.