As a growing college student, it becomes hard to balance studies, a positive life and a healthy diet while trying to figure out your path in your twenties. We all come to questions in our life where the answers are harder to discover, making the world more difficult to survive and afford quality products for sustainability.
As I notice my daily surroundings, I ask myself why a gallon of milk costs more than a gallon of gas, and why a salad at a fast food chain costs more than a greasy hamburger. The necessities in life should cost less and be easier to consume, yet this becomes more difficult when government officials and food corporations do little to help the average American.
With meat and dairy on the rise in our country and in other countries, the production of both beef and dairy are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, more than some cars and planes. A recent report from the Agricultural Research Service reported that dairy and beef alone make up 65 percent of all livestock emissions, while cattle contribute 15 percent of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. To help decrease levels of these emmissions, we individually have to eat healthier foods that do not emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through their production.
Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation for dairy as the state is one of the largest agricultural industries, with values sales at almost $2 million. About 24 percent of total land in Chester County is used to grow crops, which are then produced to feed animals, primarily cattle.
A recent landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that dairy and beef alone are still making up 65 percent of all livestock emissions, with meat consumption on track to rise up to 75 percent by 2050, and 65 percent in dairy compared to 40 percent of all cereals. The Southeast Regional Cattleman’s Association has declared that the beef industry is on the rise as many farms that were primarily for dairy farming have converted to beef production. The government is still not doing much to defeat the skyrocketing increase amongst meat production in this country, as they “fear consumer backlash.”
From my experience working at Kimberton Whole Foods, I have noticed that more people want to eat healthier to decrease the risk of heart disease and other illnesses from diet, but they cannot afford the price of foods that are labeled “healthier.”
The price for a packaged grass-fed ground beef from Strasburg is twice the cost of “normal” foods from your local Giant or Walmart. To make a healthier climate, we must take action locally to ensure some positivity to our climate.
Individually, each person in the Chester County area can protest for protection of forests, grassland and other habitats from being converted to cropland or pasture while supporting and encouraging farmers to adopt good soil practices. Instead of asking people to change their daily diets, we could ask for better practices when raising farm animals and use of the land. The land that is being destroyed to feed cattle should be used to feed communities. When the food is instead fed to cattle and other farm raised animals, it seems as though the consumer is paying to feed and eat the processed food.
Instead, communities can open local markets that acknowledge the use of no pesticides, selling healthier foods for an inexpensive price. More forests and grasslands could be open to wild animals that roam around the county, giving them homes instead of back roads and nearby neighborhoods.
A solution to make the individual body and heart healthier would be to go vegan or eat more primary vegetable based meals. In Chester County, we could stop eating too many eggs, meat and dairy products while persuading others to do the same.
Healthy foods are not the cheapest, though, as government officials and large corporations tax healthier branded foods. A plant-based diet can prevent plaque buildup in your blood vessels and lower the risk of heart disease.
By simply lowering the amount of meat in your diet, you are helping the community atmosphere and climate, as well as lowering your own risk of high blood pressure.
When grocery shopping, one does not have to shop in the organic or expensive, healthy whole food stores, but instead substitute unhealthy products for healthier products. Instead of buying the family-sized bag of chips for about $3, an individual can purchase a bag of apples for daily consumption. Instead of buying processed foods, individuals can decide to create their own meals from scratch, which can be cheaper and give the consumer additional food for a next meal.
When the government and large corporations cannot change their practice, it is up to the individual to want to change for the better, to indulge in a longer, healthier life.
Individuals can stop help the emission of greenhouse gases by not consuming as much beef and dairy products, as the demand to produce will not be as high. You can start by substituting fruits and vegetables rather than junk food in your cart the next time shopping at your local grocery store.
Peter Foster is a fourth-year student majoring in communications studies. Contact him at PF790190@wcupa.edu