Skip to content

Living without Meat

2010 April 20

I used to eat meat throughout my childhood, but never really enjoyed the taste. Only after a graphic showing of a pig slaughter I witnessed in elementary school did I stop eating pig, and once I was in high-school I became of full-on vegetarian. My main reasoning for this was more that I disliked the taste of meat, but the ethics against killing animals was a reasoning as well.

I soon learned that there was another great motive to becoming vegetarian; the negative environmental effects of meat production . There are a variety of different environmental impacts that occur due to the production of meat:

  • Air pollution due to dust and liquid manures.
  • Fossil fuels, water, and land over-use
  • Rainforest erosion and destruction for pasture land
  • Water contamination due to animal waste
  • Grain and corn grown for animal feed instead of addressing world hunger

The two natural resources that are perhaps most tapped by meat manufacturing are land and water. According to the British group, VegFarm, a 10-acre piece of land can feed 60 people when used for the production of soybeans, 24 people when used for wheat, 10 people when used for corn, and only a mere 2 people when used for cattle. Similarly, the amount of water used is severely disproportional when comparing wheat to meat. In a book written by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, one pound of wheat uses approximately 60 pounds of water while one pound of meat requires about 2,500 to 6,000 pounds of water.

Another issue that the EPA is specifically interested in is the pollution that feedlots and animal wastes are causing in waterways . The runoff from feedlots and animals feces-covered fields is causing some of our waters, such as areas in the Chesapeake Bay, to become unhealthy.

Regulations can be made to help prevent the effects of meat production, but the easiest way to lessen the environmental impacts is to become a vegetarian or vegan. The vegetarian/vegan alternative can be easily accomplished in today’s markets and restaurants. Meat substitutes including tofu, seitan, and soy-based products are more easily accessible in grocery stores and especially in the rising organic food markets. Also, many restaurants are now providing vegetarian options to better suit those who do not eat meat. Making the change can be difficult, but persistence in becoming a vegetarian can lead to a more eco-friendly lifestyle

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor’s note: As stated on the “About” page, “The opinions and comments expressed in Greenversations are those of the authors alone and do not reflect an Agency policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy of the contents of the blog.”

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

405 Responses leave one →
  1. Maria permalink
    June 14, 2010

    Steve, I think your statement “I don’t want to go back to eating the same few boring things every day” shows that you need to get out from your limited part of the world too. There are hundreds of fruits, vegetables and grains so that you could try out a different recipe out for every day of the year and not have to eat the same thing twice. Sounds like you need to learn to cook and use more ingredients!

  2. Maria permalink
    June 14, 2010

    Nicole, well done on writing this blog! I applaud you for putting out information that doesn’t receive a lot of mainstream airplay.

  3. Pilates & Organic permalink
    June 17, 2010

    Great post.
    As addicted to Pilates , the objective was to purifying my body , than started to be vegetarian ( not full time yet ) for over 10 month now.
    It is just blessing!

  4. dinariraqi permalink
    July 22, 2010

    Nicole, well completed on writing this blog! I congratulate you for putting out information that doesn’t accept a lot of conventional airplay.
    iraqi dinar

  5. Roshan permalink
    August 13, 2010

    To get some numbers on the people who contract food borne illnesses associated with meat, check out the CDC website. Actually, the only pathogen that can be spread in meat despite adequate cooking and sanitary handling practice is BSE- mad cow disease. The other food borne illnesses aren’t necessarily restricted to just meat- so eliminating meat from the diet wouldn’t eliminate the problem.

  6. Digital Economy Strategy permalink
    August 27, 2010

    Such a nice blog with all true point!

  7. Yeast Free Diet Information permalink
    September 7, 2010

    I think it’s hard to live without meat, but you have to actually discipline yourself to get the results you really want. This must take some getting used to. Just like before, I was completely a bread lover, not until I developed yeast intolerance.. so I had to do the right
    Yeast Free Diet. Now I am used to healthy living with greens and a balanced diet as well.

  8. Sami permalink
    September 16, 2010

    I agree that being a vegetarian can have a great effect on the environment, we seem to have more problems eg. my husband is allergic to yeast , maybe due to the pollution in our food. And our family now on a Yeast free diet

  9. jamian permalink
    September 21, 2010

    That’s what bodybuilding has given me. When a teen or an adult begins home workouts, planning a safe and workable schedule with a trained professional who are good at producing results is essential. Once teens get involved in such programs, they learn to be disciplined and dedicated.

  10. Anonymous permalink
    October 3, 2010

    That is all good but in the end we all are human beings and are doing the things we like and enjoy. If you like to eat veg food that is good but what if I do not like it? What should I eat then? As to environment, many things influence the environment in bad a way, like polution cars produce, did you stop driving a car? I suppose no. The thing is that everybody should somehow contribute to the planet we all live on some of us decide to be a veg, some to choose bicycle instead of car and some to join greenpeace.

  11. Rick permalink
    October 3, 2010

    That is all good but in the end we all are human beings and are doing the things we like and enjoy. If you like to eat veg food that is good but what if I do not like it? What should I eat then? As to environment, many things influence the environment in bad a way, like polution cars produce, did you stop driving a car? I suppose no. The thing is that everybody should somehow contribute to the planet we all live on some of us decide to be a veg, some to choose bicycle instead of car and some to join greenpeace.

  12. Magento Templates permalink
    October 19, 2010

    I like your blog and such a useful information sharing. I appreciate your blog and thanks for that.

  13. fil permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Go Gluten-free

  14. Atishay jain permalink
    October 30, 2010

    The humane society likes to show that is a rarity and those who do that should be punished but not those of us who extremely care for our animals.

  15. Math Tutor - Malek H. permalink
    November 3, 2010

    I believe that there are more minerals and vitamins that our body needs in fruits and vegetables than in most kinds of meats, it is healthier too.

  16. Angela permalink
    November 4, 2010

    I guess it’s ironic that I could not imagine eating only veggies, I mean I was raised on meat and I like meat. I think there are plenty of other ways to help the enviroment. However saying that I don’t think I could eat my dog.

  17. Randy permalink
    November 23, 2010

    Meat is animal flesh that is used as food.Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs, livers, skin, brains, bone marrow, kidneys, or lungs.

  18. Joey Armarillo permalink
    December 8, 2010

    wheres the beef

  19. Speed reading permalink
    December 17, 2010

    Its hard to live without meat.I am scared from reading this post only.

  20. Jonathan Maxson permalink
    December 17, 2010

    After further reflection I have decided to strengthen my original position.

    I am also disturbed by the editorial staff’s “lame attempt to distance the Agency from the statements of the author on this blog,” as one prior commenter put it. How is it that the United States EPA is not able to provide the public with an authoritative statement that backs up what any college sophomore can easily determine for herself by consulting the consensus scientific literature and performing a few simple mathematical and logical operations?

    I fully agree with many previous commenters that the EPA should indeed exercise responsibility for the actions of its intern in this case, not only out of respect for the intern, but also out of respect for the American people.

    Americans deserve a straightforward answer from the EPA. Does a meatless diet use less land and water, create less pollution, and cost less to regulate, than the standard American diet?

    This should be an extremely simple question for the EPA to answer. If the scientists at the EPA are unable to do so, and in short order, Ms. Jackson should be called to account. If the science involved was in any way complicated, I would not feel so strongly about this, but the principles, data, and mathematics at play are so basic, it is difficult to understand how any credible scientist can possibly disagree with the logic of Nicole Reising’s argument.

    I challenge any scientist in the EPA, or anywhere in the world, to argue that Americans cannot raise a complete plant-based diet on about 1/2 acre per capita using existing agricultural methods, which is to say 150 million acres for a population of about 300 million people, or double that acreage for a projected population of 600 million by the end of the century.

    At present, Americans in the lower-48 use less than 150 million acres of cropland to raise plant-based foods for people, but they use over 200 million acres of cropland to raise feed and forage for livestock, and they use almost 1 billion acres of cropland, range, and woodland pasture for all livestock production. In other words, Americans use 50% of their lower-48 land base to raise livestock, and only 8% to grow plant foods, when they could in fact so easily feed the entire population on just 10% of the land base that they would still have a surplus for export.

    It obviously takes less water, creates a smaller ecological footprint, and requires less regulatory oversight to grow a plant-based diet for all Americans on 200 million acres of cropland than it does to a raise a meat-based diet on over 1 billion acres of multiple land classes. Is there any credible scientist at the EPA, or anywhere in the world, who can produce a valid challenge to this argument?

    It is very much in the best economic interests of all Americans to increase the percentage of vegans and vegetarians in our population, and to provide livestock producers with incentives to transition their lands into forest and perennial biomass wherever possible. This is essential to our national energy security and to the protection of the climate, water, and ecosystems resources on which the future of our society so critically depends. There may still be a quite valid role for conservation stocking on our nation’s arid lands, and this, combined with a smaller number of livestock producers and the realistic expectation that demand for livestock products will continue to remain a component of American culture for generations to come, should only serve to bolster the long-term economic security of our nation’s most responsible and sensibly zoned ranchers.

    I believe the EPA owes the American people an official statement on the scientifically valid environmental benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets.

    See my full post here.

  21. cheap computers permalink
    December 21, 2010

    I would like to appreciate the work of blog author that the person provided us with an extremely excellent information regarding the topic. Ireally learned something from this blog and started to contribute my ideas via commenting on this blog. Keep it up

  22. Sara permalink
    February 16, 2011

    Humans are most definitely by nature vegan. Just because the vast majority of humans now consume meat/dairy doesn’t mean it’s natural. Everything about the human anatomy shows that humans are designed to be herbivores.
    Flat, broad teeth. Jaws that move side to side. Small oral openings. Flattened fingernails. Small stomachs. Ph of 4-5 in stomach. Long intestines. ETC

    Carnivores have sharp, often serrated teeth. Large jaw opening (to hold prey). Sharp claws (hunting). Large stomachs (to hold prey) Ph of 1-2 in stomach (since primary digestion is in stomach for carnivores, unlike herbivores, i.e. humans, where most digestion is in intestine.) Short intestines. ETC

  23. Matt permalink
    March 20, 2011

    okay dont get me wrong on this but has anyone ever tried fasting? I mean seriously because toxins and other stuff that is filtered through are bodies are collected in body tissues if you fast your body will get rid of all that toxin and waste from the foods you eat, especially meats which uncooked or undercooked can cause a lot of problems.

  24. PWC Motor permalink
    March 23, 2011

    I appreciate your blog. It is such an informative blog. keep it up!

  25. floor heaters permalink
    March 25, 2011

    Questo è tutto buono ma alla fine siamo tutti esseri umani e stanno facendo le cose che ci piacciono e godere. Se ti piace mangiare veg cibo che è buono,heatersfloor. ma cosa succede se non mi piace? Cosa dovrei mangiare allora? Per quanto riguarda l’ambiente, molte cose che influenzano l’ambiente in un modo cattivo, come le auto producono inquinamento, ti sei fermato alla guida di un auto? Suppongo che nessuno. Il fatto è che tutti dovrebbero in qualche modo contribuire al pianeta viviamo tutti su alcuni di noi decidono di essere un veg, alcuni a scegliere bicicletta al posto di auto e alcuni di unirsi Greenpeace.

  26. supra vaider permalink
    March 28, 2011

    I appreciate this. Thanks for the informative article.

  27. tory burch shoes permalink
    March 30, 2011

    It is rather interesting for me to read this article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

  28. anon permalink
    April 11, 2011

    THE REAL PROBLEM: Nobody believes in balance anymore, vegetarians think they’re more “humane” and “compassionate” than meat-eaters, and frankly I’m sick and tired of it. I am proud animal lover. I believe all animals were put on this earth for a purpose, be it to be eaten, used for fur, or just to look at. PETA and all the other maniacal so-called “organizations” out there that want to put a stop to using animals are not “animal-lovers” as they claim, they’re animal-worshipers, as are all you other “eat nothing with a face” people. Humans dominate this world, not animals. If you believe that you’re on the same level as an animal, be my guest. It’s certainly not the most normal way of going about things. But leave everyone else who is normal and would like to enjoy the G-d given benefits of meat and the like ALONE. Shut up with your ultimatums and absolutes and threats and warnings. Everything WILL BE FINE, as it has been for centuries. Besides, this vegetarianism is a fad, like the 80s and big hair, and pet rocks and tamagotchis. This too will go out of style once everyone comes to their senses. You want to save the world? Ride your bikes to work and school. Stop smoking 16 packs a day. Walk places. Throw away your television and get a life. Most vegetarians think they’re more humane. Do you feel that way about people too? Do you have an abundance of compassion for a child who is slow, or is your good-will reserved for animals, who don’t have souls like people do? First perfect your love an compassion for your fellow humans. Then worry about your fuzzy animal friends.

  29. anon permalink
    April 11, 2011

    That is the most moronic statement I’ve ever heard. Do you even have children that you are quoting Dr. Spock. For the love of G-d, get a clue. Dr. Spock didn’t “condemn” cow’s milk for any vegetarian reason. As is true for all infants, cow’s milk is hard to digest because infants lack the proper enzyme to digest it. I was personally lactose intolerant for many years before I outgrew it and now I enjoy cheese and milk products all the time. Infants can’t eat honey either. And peanut butter. Wanna condemn eating those as well? Or do you just pick and choose based on your own personal idea of “truth”? You people make me sick.

  30. anon permalink
    April 11, 2011

    Agreed. Let’s overrun them.

  31. anon permalink
    April 11, 2011

    I’m sorry that this is the way your meat is produced. But Kosher meat has very different standards. Our cows experience none of this. And seeing as how I’ve raised calves myself I can tell you that they prefer to be out in the field and not closed in and barn, even in the rain. They like the fresh air, the smell of the grass, they like to roll around in the mud. They like being animals. Stop using human conveniences to apply to animals. It’s innappropriate.

  32. Jamie permalink
    May 12, 2011

    Thanks for the read, after coming across the other day I am becoming more and more interested but still am not sure if I should become a vegan or start out trying as a vegetarian. Any thoughts?

  33. Brevillebje510xl permalink
    October 12, 2011

    Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.

    Webmaster of

  34. Funwebproducts spyware permalink
    October 18, 2011

    There is so much evidence out there that shows that we were all meant to be vegetarians. It’s a challenge to switch over but it can be done.

  35. J. Duncan McNeill permalink
    October 22, 2011

    I guess it’s possible to live without meat, but who wants to?

  36. Delonghi Esam5400 permalink
    October 23, 2011

    People have and always will eat meat, although you can live without it, I wouldn’t want too that’s for sure.

  37. vanessa permalink
    November 2, 2011

    Very interesting and informative!

  38. Stan permalink
    November 2, 2011

    I don’t think meat is the problem, it’s the commercialization of it. The large feedlots and production that they have turned it into is where the problems occur. God didn’t even intend for cows to eat corn, but we still feed it too them because they grow larger faster. If we just went back to small farms it would make a huge difference.

  39. beverage refrigerator permalink
    November 30, 2011

    I do think that meat is the problem.

  40. Aldo permalink
    December 1, 2011

    Please write more about this topic, I’m looking forward to (Living Without Meat, Part 2) Don’t let the meat/dairy industry bully or scare you to not writing more about this..I got your back, that’s all you need. :)

  41. Dean permalink
    December 20, 2011

    Thanks for the info. I don’t know if I could live without eating meat, especially fish. I do love my veggies more than anything else, but I just can’t get enough protein without eating some kind of meat. I don’t like red meat much, but I do eat it on occasion, like a few times a month. If there was a way to get enough protein without eating meat, I would try it.

  42. Mark permalink
    December 27, 2011

    Meat is just a part of every day living for most people. I could not live without it as I do not see enough vegetarian alternatives.

  43. Rickey permalink
    January 10, 2012

    Beautiful Post! I have recently become more aware of the environmental hazards of eating meat and have made a concerted effort by eating more vegetables and removing meat from not only mine but my family’s diet.

  44. permalink
    February 29, 2012

    Good thing, Im a vegetarian atleast im not a part of the problem :)

  45. Vegan Eating Out permalink
    March 20, 2012

    Becoming vegan is easier than ever. Hundreds of restaurant and fast food chains have vegan menu items and ingredients that can satisfy your diet. I think it’s wonderful that such a simple change can have a profound impact on the environment and I hope that as veganism gains popularity more and more people will switch.

  46. How to flatten your stomach permalink
    March 26, 2012

    The meat consist of bad fatty lipid causes overweight. Better get the healthy and stay slim by eating vegetable, fruit and take exercise.

  47. tratament candida permalink
    April 17, 2012

    Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I’m inspired! Extremely useful info particularly the closing part :) I handle such info much. I was looking for this certain info for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

  48. May 3, 2012

    actually meat is just like any other source of food…depends on us whether will make it usefull or be junk food

  49. June 11, 2012

    For me, Its hard to living without meat. but I think your information is good! thank’s..

  50. July 20, 2012

    Well, meat simply gives you the best protein out there. So the body does need meat i believe. So without meat your system will slowly shut down…

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS