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Kat Barry: Be vegan and save the world too

Published 7:49am Friday, January 18, 2013

Almost every time I tell someone I’m vegan they ask me what made me decide to do it. “There’s too many reasons to ignore,” I almost always respond.

While I say this in a joking manner, it’s true. The main reason was my health. Changing to a plant-based diet made me more energetic, reduced my allergies and cured my long battle with IBS and eczema. Further, vegetarians live an average of eight to 10 years longer than meat eaters, have lower risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. With your daily food choices, you can reduce global warming and famine. Did you know factory farming of livestock is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases?

According to Environmental Defense, if every American substituted just one meal of chicken per week for a vegetarian one, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking over a half a million cars off U.S. roads.

In Michiana, we were all affected by last summer’s drought. This has caused the prices of corn and wheat to almost double on the global market, which has a devastating impact on developing nations relying upon grain imports to feed people. I’ve read countless articles about the amount of water needed to sustain livestock farms. Basically, if the global population continues to grow at its current rate and maintains its current diet, we won’t have enough water to produce food to feed everyone. On the other hand, if everyone in the U.S. went vegetarian for one day, we would save about 100 billion gallons of water. That’s enough to supply all the homes in New England with water for four months. Imagine how many more resources we would have if we cut out meat three days, four days or altogether.

Soybeans consumed by livestock

Speaking of resources, I was shocked to learn that 90 percent of the soybean crop grown in the U.S. is used to feed livestock. I find this interesting, not simply because of the amount of people we could be feeding instead, but mainly because so many non-vegetarians tell me they don’t want to eat much soy. Without getting into the misconceptions surrounding soy, I ask meat eaters to realize they are intaking way more via the cows, chickens and pigs that are on your table than a vegetarian who eats tofu occasionally. At the very base of it all, what went into the food we eat goes into us. If you’re trying to avoid soy, best avoid meat, too, and simply eat some beans.

The same shocking numbers are true for corn and grains. Only 20 percent of the corn grown in our country goes to feed people. The other 80 percent is consumed by livestock.

Say we are producing about 14 million bushels a year, and it only takes eight or so bushels to feed one person for an entire year. We could feed millions of people who are starving, if we chose a different form of protein at dinner.

Choice matters

We, as individuals, have the power to make a difference.

Our daily choices affect the global economy, those around us who go hungry and the future of our children.

Maybe it’s easier to buy a Prius than to change your mindset about food, but I encourage you to make it a goal to eat vegetarian for at least one day a week. I’m sure you’ll not only feel better physically, but maybe you can rest a little easier at night knowing you’re actively participating in making the world a little better.

For some great vegetarian recipes and cooking videos, visit www.katshotcakes.com.

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