Vegetarian. Vegan. Pescatarian. Meatless Mondays, I’m sure you’ve heard all of these terms thrown around when people discuss eating practices that are environmentally friendly. These methods all have a common thread: reducing or eliminating the amount of meat, especially red meat, that you consume in order to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
Yes, reducing the amount of meat we eat is indeed key to protecting the planet. Livestock, primarily cattle, contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If possible, we should all be reducing the amount of beef we eat, as these outputs are incredibly unsustainable. Eating less meat is one of the biggest ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, and it can be relatively easy to substitute a meat dish for a plant based meal a couple times a week.
Yet, it is also true that removing meat from one’s diet isn’t feasible for everyone. Restricting any type of food can be hard for some, and the ability to eat whatever you want whenever you want can be essential to recovery processes and getting necessary nutritional value. Also, some people just really enjoy eating meat. That’s completely fair; there’s nothing quite like an In-N-Out hamburger as a late night meal after a long day.
Enter the “regenivore.” Unlike vegans or vegetarians, regenivores still eat meat, but in a manner that supports the agricultural shift away from degradation of the land and toward sustainability by eating products that are grown with the intention of building biodiversity and promoting the health of the planet. The animals raised on farms that support these ideals are treated ethically through their lifespans and the soil on the grazing land is supported through organic fertilizing and organisms. This essentially means that eating meat can support local farmers and the health of the Earth, while also working to building healthy ecosystems.
Full disclosure: I’m vegetarian and I haven’t eaten meat in over four years. But I come from the Midwest, the land of agriculture and cattle farms — and a family that loves eating meat. I am not exaggerating when I say my sisters could eat a whole chicken in one sitting. Over winter break, I spent meals eating a subpar form of plant based meat wondering how I was really making a difference while my family feasted on bacon or burgers.
My mom has always questioned my ability to get the nutrients I need as a vegetarian, so naturally we had a few conversations about the costs and benefits of eating meat over my month at home. When she first started talking about regenivores, I didn’t think that much of it. But after learning more, I’ve come to see this climate conscious way of sourcing food as a very viable way to support regenerative agricultural practices as well as local economies.
As a student, shopping for meat while keeping in mind where the animal was raised and how the individual farm interacted with the land can be an expensive hassle. But it’s important to keep in mind the impacts of the economies we support, especially given the detrimental effects of agriculture and mass production on the Earth. Deciding not to buy a meat based meal from a chain restaurant with ambiguously sourced ingredients and instead taking the extra time to buy meat that day at a food co-op that sources locally makes a difference.
Protecting the planet through the food we eat should be easy and accessible to everyone, including those who don’t want or are unable to cut meat from their diets. For the time being, I will continue to make my contribution by choosing to be vegetarian. But someday I’ll probably want to eat meat again, and at that point I hope to turn to being a regenivore, maintaining my consciousness of sustainable food practices while enjoying my tasty, sustainably sourced hamburger.