What’s all this ‘beef’ about going meatless (occasionally)?

By Hannah Hwozdik, Hines VA Dietetic Intern

In 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that there were 58.7 pounds of boneless chicken and 51.5 pounds of beef per person available to eat in the US, but did you know that over 7.3 million people in the United States follow a vegetarian based diet? Many of you may ask “How do they get enough protein?” The fact of the matter is there are many foods that are great sources of protein that are not animal products.

Good protein sources other than meat include:


  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts or nut butters
  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Quinoa
  • Products made from soy
  • Nutritional Yeast


There are also many different types of vegetarians, all of which eat different variations of a meatless diet. Some may still receive protein from eggs, fish, or dairy products, while others may only get their protein from plants.The classifications of vegetarians include:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians (eat dairy and eggs)
  • Lacto-vegetarians (eat dairy but not eggs)
  • Ovo-vegetrians (eat eggs but no dairy)
  • Pescatarian (eat fish)
  • Vegan (eat no products that is a derivative of an animal)

“Why would anyone decide not to eat meat?” you ask.  People may decide to omit meat from their diets for a variety of reasons. Just to name a few… some cultures do not condone eating meat, others may not like the taste, some are against animal cruelty, and others for environmental reasons. For the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the environmental impact of the livestock industry, and the effect you and I can have by omitting meat from our diets just once or twice a week (or altogether, if you please).

Many may not know that livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all of transportation. The emissions are not projected to decrease any time soon. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are expected to increase by 80% by the year 2050. Cows in particular produce 250-500 liters of methane gas per day, which equates to over 150 billion gallons of methane from the estimated 1.5 billion cows around the world. In addition, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of water consumption in the United States, and 56% of the US water consumption goes to growing feed crops for livestock. Only 5% of water use in the US is used in private homes.

It may not seem like just one person choosing to eat a little less meat may make a difference, but all great changes starts with just one. “But I don’t know any meatless recipes.” Problem solved; below is a recipe for a vegetarian chili. It is packed with vegetables providing a variety of nutrients, protein and fiber from beans, and whole lot of flavor. Join me, and many others, in going meatless (don’t be chicken).

Vegetarian Chili


  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced (remove seeds if you don’t like spice)
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2½ tbsp chili powder
  • ½ tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt + black pepper, to taste
  • 1-28oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1-15oz can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-15oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed


Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about five minutes.

Add pepper, carrot, celery, and jalapeño and cook for another five minutes. Add parsley, chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook for about a minute.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans, stirring to combine. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer (there should be tiny bubbles), uncovered for at least 30 minutes or ideally two hours for the most flavor.

Recipe from Hummusapien


Usda.gov. Spotlight: Per capita availability of chicken higher than that of beef.

Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.


Ross, Philip. “Cow farts have ‘larger greenhouse gas impact’ than previously thought; methane pushes climate change.” International Business Times. 2013.

“USDA ERS – Irrigation & Water Use.” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. 2013.

Jacobson, Michael F. “More and Cleaner Water.” In Six Arguments for a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could save Your Health and the Environment. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006.

Oxford Journals. “Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues”

Jacobson, Michael F. “More and Cleaner Water.” In Six Arguments for a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could save Your Health and the Environment. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006.

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