Cease Offering Up Meat For Lunch

Eric Hass

The Miramonte cafeteria should immediately stop serving meat and replace it with natural grains, beans, and nuts.  By doing this, we will lessen our strain on the environment, reduce costs, and ease ethical concerns.

Meat’s environmental impact is incredible. The discrepancy between the herbivore level of the energy pyramid and the plant level is very large. In other words, to eat something that first needs to eat is unsurprisingly inefficient.

It takes 16 times as much fossil fuel energy to produce 320 calories of beef as it does to produce the same amount of energy of vegetables. The production of livestock emits 24 times as much CO2 equivalent gas as does the production of energy-equivalent vegetables. Beef uses at least 50 times as much water as do crops. Other animals are less guilty of water waste.

Chickens only use more than one-and-three-quarters times as much water as do crops. Growing crops like corn that humans can eat, only to use them to feed cattle, is a waste of energy.

You don’t actually need to eat meat, although it provides a convenient bundle of five essential nutrients: Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, amino acids (protein) and Vitamin B12. You do not have to eat meat to get the necessary amount of these nutrients.

Omega-3 acids are found in flax seed, which can be easily baked into sandwich bread. Iron is found in milk and many plant products. Again, baking grains into bread is an easy delivery method. Nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes easily provide zinc. Protein is found in nuts, legumes, and many vegetables. Vitamin B12 can be taken in pills or the more school-friendly fortified cereal.

However, if the cafeteria immediately removed meat from the menu, current daily choices would drop from 18 to six. Sales would suffer, which would invalidate any cost-based reasons for eliminating meat from the menu. With regards to cost, the lesser meats of chicken, turkey, and swine are competitive with nuts, but beans and grains cost a fraction of what meat does.

A gradual phase-out would prevent backlash to an abrupt removal while allowing time to brainstorm adequate replacements for meat. Beef should go first. Where possible, specific replacements of meat with healthful spreads, meaty vegetables like eggplant or mushrooms, or piles of nuts or beans should be made. This would reduce the difficult task of adding, sourcing, and learning how to make new meals.

Meat poses several ethical problems as well. Is it justified to kill needlessly? No. This lack of necessity applies to meat slaughter, as it has no unique nutritional benefit. However, a simple and logical conclusion isn’t enough to compel the global meat industry and the numerous developing communities that depend on holistic use of animals to stop killing animals, nor should it be such a spark of an instant cessation of economic activity that would result in a horrific economic slump that would do far more harm than good.

It would be prudent to gradually wean ourselves off of the stuff. To argue otherwise is an affirmation of selfishness.

This issue is close to the top of the to-do list if we want to keep our standing as one of the top 100 schools in the nation. It deserves this position because it isn’t a mere aesthetic choice: it can add value in both economic and moral standing. Problems like this will play a larger role in official and parental evaluations as schools start to be measured by more than what goes on in the classroom. How does it look to pay such attention to personal health by banning junk food while ignoring the health of the environment as a whole by continuing to serve meat?

We also have to lay off 58 teachers district-wide because of the budget crisis. If it’s possible to staunch this financial injury by ridding ourselves of meat’s inherent decadence, there is no reason to hesitate.