SPECIAL REPORT: Cutting the beef - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Cutting the beef

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The meat industry in this country isn't in danger of folding up its tent, but its future isn't exactly looking as good as its past.

Let's go to the numbers from the humane society:

In 2007, 9.5 billion land animals were raised and killed for food.

In 2015, that number fell by 400 million to 9.1 billion.

While the drop seems minor with numbers so big, Wall Street has taken notice.

NASDAQ published an article with the headline -- "How the 'death of meat' could impact your portfolio."

In it investors are advised to "think twice about holding long positions in meat industry stocks" because "meat consumption has been steadily declining."

 So what happened? Where's the beef?

The answer is simple.

An increasing number of people are giving up red meat and the number one reason why is health.

Numerous studies show that heart health concerns, over cholesterol, plaque in the arteries, high blood pressure, and fear of a heart attack, are the reasons an increasing number of people are taking red meat off their menu.

"Unfortunately, beyond just genetics, and also the fact that we may have some other habits such as smoking, and other predisposing factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, which may play a role in the development of coronary disease, diet also plays a major role," said Dr. Lionel Malebranche.

Doctor Lionel Malebranche is a cardiologist and cardiovascular specialist with Unity-Point Health Methodist.

He subscribes to the assessment that heart disease is a food-borne illness.

"That does increase the lipid profile, which is a known risk factor for coronary disease. But there is also an inflammatory property that is activated by the cascade of events linked to the intake of the transfats. linked to these events. And that leads to the forming of plaque and ulceration within that plaque that can promote heart attack and stroke because plaque rupture is directly linked to these events," said Dr. Malebranche.

Studies also show that by going vegan or vegetarian, your risk of cancer is reduced by 25 to 50%.

And it's not just middle-aged or older adults who have joined the meat-free movement.

Asa Armah has been vegan since 2012, after she talked with a high school classmate who went to a plant-based diet.

"I feel good eating things that caused no harm to anyone else. Sleep better which is important to me," said Armah.

Asa works at Common Ground in downtown Bloomington, a small local grocery that's celebrating its 40th year in business.

"There seem to be a lot of people who are new vegans," said Sander Weeks.

Now this is one of the more popular meatless products that you can find at this store and many others.

It's called Benevolent Bacon. I've had it. It's really good. Is it the same as real bacon? It's not supposed to be, but it's pretty close.

 And non-meat has gone gourmet.

The chef at this restaurant in New York has invented and is selling a ton of, the impossible burger.

It looks and even bleeds like the real thing.

What makes the impossible possible?

Coconut oil and potatoes and one secret ingredient.

But what about nutrition?

Can you keep up the same level by giving up red meat?

You absolutely can. You can absolutely get enough protein on a plant based diet.

However, Registered Dietitian Susan Waltrip-Buck said there are certain nutrients that come up short , for instance, calcium, vitamin b-12, which is found in animal sources and, for women, iron, which is found in red meat.

"But you can make that up..You can get calcium from green leafy vegetables, collard greens, from kale.You can get it from broccoli. You can get calcium from some of the non-dairy products, maybe like an almond milk or soy products," said Waltrip-Buck, "The B-12..even if you're going vegan, I might suggest a supplement to make that up."

Ironically the animals that give us red meat play a critical role in supplying us with plant-based entrees.

Farmers use the manure to fertilize their fields and grow their crops.

"Livestock produces a renewable product it's got nitrogen in it phosphorus and it's got potassium and that product, applied to the land, increases yield for corn and soybean," said Patrick Kirchhofer, with the Farmer's bureau.

And then there are the environmental concerns livestock emit methane gas which is a greenhouse gas, greenhouse gasses contribute to climate change.

According to the united nations raising animals for food creates nearly 20% of greenhouse gasses around the world.

"Methane is a very strong greenhouse gas. So, when it does get into the atmosphere, it retains heat, which will lead to warming of the planet," said professor Sherri Morris. "There is a study that came out last year that suggests that if we were to reduce the amount of meat consumption, to what would be the recommended consumption level, we would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases contributed to the atmosphere by about 30%."

Other environmental concerns are the use of water.

It takes 2,600 gallons of water to produce one pound of edible beef.

Raising animals for food is the biggest polluter of water and topsoil.

And it takes more land to raise animals for food than it does to produce the equal nutritional value of edible plants.

But in the end, Bradley biology chair Sherri Morris said one factor for giving up meat outweighs all others.

"The decreased cost in healthcare is well worth the decrease in animal consumption. And you don't have to go all the way to being vegetarian -- really simply decreasing the amount of meat is going to have some of those health gains," said Morris.

Professor Morris said one way to help with greenhouse gases is to buy local food.

It will cut down on fuel for transportation.

If you're interested in maybe cutting back or giving up meat, let me recommend a video called "Forks over Knives" you can find it on YouTube. 

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