Teen Spotlight: Tessa Guthrie on why Americans should be more meat conscious

Tessa Guthrie
Special to the Snowmass Sun
Tessa Guthrie, a junior at Aspen High School.
Tessa Guthrie/courtesy photo

Two years ago, my health teacher showed my class a documentary about food production in the United States.

The film featured hundreds of chickens packed into a shed with no light, only being fed cornmeal and constantly being injected with fattening agencies. The chickens could barely recognize their surroundings and were being fattened to the point of not being able to physically walk — all for the ideal barbecue chicken wings.

The saying, “I don’t wanna know how the sausage is made,” was an understatement. Out of curiosity, I researched other food production in America. It became clear to me that large livestock production was borderline animal abuse. But if that wasn’t reason enough, I also discovered that cattle production alone is extremely detrimental to the environment.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock industry is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the production of cattle greatly leading. Livestock release on average 3.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Denis Hayes, an environmental activist and author, puts it this way: “The amount of carbon dioxide that is given off per pound of beef is, in fact, greater (than burning a gallon of gasoline).”

I cut beef from my diet after these realizations, and it was surprisingly easy. There are multitudes of beef substitutes, like ground turkey, which are actually healthier. Also, by me not eating beef at home, my family was less inclined to cook it, as preparing two separate meals wasn’t appealing.

I think it is necessary for Americans to reduce their consumption of cattle products because of the negative impact on the environment. However, meat is considerably integrated into American culture. On Thanksgiving Day families eat turkey, hotdogs are a staple of the Fourth of July, hamburgers are an American classic and bacon is part of a basic breakfast.

The good news is there isn’t a pressing need for everybody to become vegetarian. In fact, if people started consuming tofu at the rate they consume meat, soybean production would become harmful to the environment. That’s why instead of eliminating beef from one’s diet, people can instead practice meat consciousness. This means eating limited amounts of meat, especially beef, and buying from small, sustainable farms when you do. If people didn’t eat cattle products for just two days a week, they could decrease their carbon footprint significantly.

The less people consume beef, the less companies will produce it in response. Becoming meat conscious is a necessary and easy step to reduce one’s carbon footprint and to help slow down the current climate crisis.

Tessa Guthrie is a junior at Aspen High School and is the design editor for The Skier Scribbler and editor-in-chief of the AHS yearbook. She plays golf, loves art and the outdoors. She plans to keep writing for the school newspaper and hopes to write for her career.


See more