As Covid-19 infections continue to soar, one of the areas hardest hit is the meatpacking industry. We are learning that workers in meat processing plants are particularly susceptible to infection because of the working conditions they face. They stand almost shoulder-to-shoulder on high speed production lines that often cause serious injuries requiring hospitalization, amputations or loss of an eye. In addition, the workers are exposed, without adequate protection, to chemicals and sprays that are used to kill pathogens in the meat products that also result in chronic health issues like respiratory problems or skin and eye irritation. The facilities are often poorly ventilated, and the workers have limited breaks in crowded break rooms. These places are perfect breeding grounds for infection from viruses, and Covid-19 is exploding in a number of facilities, causing many to shut down. This is resulting in meat shortages that are likely to get worse.
Faced with reduced availability of pork, beef and poultry, we have an opportunity to adopt a solution that will result in benefits for our health, the health and safety of workers in the meat industry, as well as the health of our planet. We can eat less meat.
If you are a regular reader at the Know Food Diet, you are well aware of the health benefits to be gained by reducing or eliminating your consumption of meat and embracing a whole food plant-based diet. Study after study has shown that this improves your quality of life and reduces your risk of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Gut health improves, leading to reduced inflammation and improved immune function. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine where Japanese adults were followed for 18 years, it was shown that eating more plants and less meat led to longer life and a lower risk of dying from all causes.
Producing meat is a highly inefficient use of resources and it takes 160 times more land, water and fuel to feed a meat eater than someone on a plant-based diet. While one acre of land can produce 250 pounds of beef, that same acre of land can grow 50,000 pounds of tomatoes and 53,000 pounds of potatoes. 70% of the grain grown in the US is fed to farmed animals instead of people. Raising cows, pigs and chickens also generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all cars and trucks combined. The less meat we eat, the less we contribute to world hunger as well as the pollution and warming of our planet.
By lowering your demand for meat, you can help reduce the pressure being placed on workers in meat processing plants to return to work at all costs, including their health and lives. At the same time, you can improve your health and that of the planet, resulting in a win, win, win!!