Lately my husband has been toying with becoming vegetarian. While I am not sure my bacon-loving beau is ready to take that step, I am all for reducing our meat consumption. Americans consist of 5 percent of the world's population and process more than 15 percent of the world's total meat, at a rate of 10 billion animals annually! All that meat consumption comes at great environmental costs. Producing meat is very energy intensive. One-third of all fossil fuels produced in the United States are used to raise animals for food. Much of that going towards producing food to feed the animals that we eat. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat. 1.4 billion people - 20 percent of the world's population - could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone. Then there is the water needed to irrigate the crops to feed to the animals and water the animals to feed to us. It takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, while growing one pound of wheat only takes 25 gallons. Seems like we could skip a step in there and just feed the crops to us. A totally vegetarian diet only requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day! You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year. I will skip the steak and take the shower, thank you very much.
Aside from the environmental aspect of meat consumption, there is the impact on your wallet to consider. I started lowering our meat consumption a few years ago by reducing our portion sizes. Meat is no longer the star of our meals, but acts more as a filler to round out the meal. One pound (16 oz.) of meat can make a meal for my family of four, compared to the 8.4 ounces that the average American consumes daily - each! Given that meat is the most expensive item in the grocery store, how much money could you save by consuming less of it? We already consume half as much as the average American, but I still think we could go lower. Enter Meatless Monday.
Meatless Monday is a non-profit website dedicated to reducing meat consumption 15 percent in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet. I pledged to make my family's Monday meals meatless. Unsure of where to start, I searched the website's recipe section (conveniently sorted by the meal you are looking for) and decided to give Great Northern White Chili a try.