It has taken me about seven months to write this blog post. I knew I had a good story to tell seven months ago, but part of me was hesitant to share it because I didn’t want to admit that I once had doubts about the industry that I now am so passionate about.
Like I’ve said before, I didn’t come from an agriculture background nor did I participate in FFA or any other agricultural programs when I was younger. I stumbled into agriculture while in college and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Since I didn’t grow up on a farm and wasn’t involved in agriculture like I am today, I was just the regular consumer not too long ago and had the same questions and concerns that a lot of consumers have today. One of my concerns led me to become a vegetarian for about a year.
My vegetarian days
Strictly speaking, a vegan is someone who does not consume meat, milk, eggs or animal by-products such as gelatin, broths or honey. There are different levels of vegetarianism – some may eat eggs, dairy products and fish but not meat or poultry or some variation in between. For me, I didn’t eat meat, poultry and eggs but I still ate dairy products and the occasional seafood.
I was 16 years old when I made the decision to eliminate meat from my diet. I was worried that eating meat caused health issues and that it didn’t have much to offer on the nutritional side that couldn’t be replaced with protein from another source.
I vividly remember my doctor’s face when I informed him that I decided to become a vegetarian – it was as if I was the doctor telling him he had an incurable, life-threatening disease – pure terror. I was convinced that I knew what was best for myself, so I didn’t let anyone change my mind – not even my doctor when he told me I should be eating meat to get the necessary protein and nutrients I needed as a growing teen.
I began eating more beans, nuts and other plant-based proteins, but I soon discovered that it simply didn’t satisfy my dietary needs. Long story short, a vegetarian diet was hindering my health instead of improving it. After a year or so of strictly not eating any meat, I decided that I would re-introduce my once-loved protein back into my diet for the same reason I let it go.
In the eight years since I returned to eating meat, I’ve learned a few things about the nutritional aspects of animal protein that I wish I would have known eight years ago…
- Meat and poultry are packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Animal-based protein and plant-based protein are not equal.
- There are lean cuts of meat available with less fat.
- Balance is key.
Reflecting on my experience, I don’t necessarily regret my hiatus from eating meat because it has provided me with a unique perspective, but If I could tell my 16-year-old self one thing it would be to hear all sides of the story before making an important decision that could have an impact on your health.
If you are considering changing your diet based on concerns about nutrition, the environment, ethics or a combination of the three, I hope you take the time to talk to subject-matter experts, read credible resources and hear all sides to an issue instead of basing your decision off a feeling like I did.