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  • Writer's pictureAnita Hollerer-Squire

Is eating meat good for our us?

I know plenty of people who eat meat every day. If you invite them over and serve up a vegetarian feast, they wouldn't exactly jump up and down with joy. This applies especially to the male gender - after all "real man eat meat", right?

This notion goes way back to the old days of hunting and providing for the family. Maybe eating meat makes them still feel like they are the providers - it has a macho flair about it and shows how tough they are.

The livestock industry certainly builds on the macho ego with ads showing hard working, sweaty man eating their overseized steaks.

But how good is meat really?

Let's have a look at pros and cons of eating meat.

Arguments for meat:

  • Humans have been eating meat since the beginning of time.

  • High in protein. Animal sources of protein tend to deliver all the amino acids we need – they are complete proteins and contain all nine amino acids.

  • High quality, unprocessed meat offers many nutrients - from iron to B Vitamins, Zinc, Magnesium to vitamin E.

  • Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, muscle weakness or blindness. If you don't eat meat, you should really take a supplement.

Arguments against meat:

  • High in saturated fats

  • Health risks. Studies show that frequent consumption of processed and red meats can lead to an increased risk of cancer. The World Health Organisation has classified processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcenogenic. The risks of cancer increases with higher amounts of meat consumed. Research has also shown that a vegetarian diet may lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

  • The effect on the environment. An environmental report released by Statistics New Zealand - Environment Aotearoa 2015 - found greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere had increased. Farming came under the spotlight, with a worsening in the quality in rivers as a result of intensely farmed land. New Zealand was responsible for about 0.1 percent of global emissions between 1990 and 2011. Global net emissions of greenhouse gases rose 33 percent in that time, but New Zealand's increased 42 percent. Carbon dioxide concentrations (the greenhouse gas which has the greatest impact in the long term) increased 21 percent in New Zealand since 1972. The report also found rivers in agricultural and urban areas had reduced water clarity and higher levels of nutrients and E.coli bacteria. Between 1990 and 2012, the estimated amount of nitrogen which leached into soil from agriculture increased 29 percent, mainly due to increases in dairy cattle numbers and nitrogen fertiliser. Once in the soil, excess nitrogen travels through soil and rock layers, ending up in groundwater, rivers and lakes. Between 1989 and 2013, total nitrogen levels in rivers increased 12 percent.

  • Animal cruelty. If you have ever seen a cattle or chicken factory - you will probably never look at meat again. Animals are often kept at terrible conditions, with no room to move and very poor sanitary conditions. But even if the animals are kept in good conditions and are roaming the field, is it right to kill them at the end? Consider the uproar from people when dogs or other domesticated animals are mistreated - would the same principle not apply to chickens or cows?

  • Livestock is often treated with antibiotics to avoid sickness and injected with hormones to make them grow faster. When we eat the meat, we will ingest those substances as well.

Nowadays more and more people embrace a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle. If you eat a wide variety of veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains you should get enough protein. Vegetarians and vegans need to make sure that they get enough B12 vitamins, calcium, iron and zinc in their diet. If you don't eat any type of dairy, you need to find foods to compensate for calcium - for example dark green veggies, tofu, calcium fortified beverages, edamame, figs and oranges.

Your choice

Only you can decide if you want to eat meat or not. If you do - choose quality over quantity.

As for myself, I very rarely eat meat, but if I do I prefer to pay a bit more and get organic meat, rather than eat meat from animals kept in poor conditions, injected with hormones and antibiotics that had a miserable life.

In any case, I would strongly advice you to minimize consumption of processed meat (such as salami, ham, bacon, sausages) - too much of that is certainly not good for your health.

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