During the ‘hamburger wars’ of the mid 1980’s, Wendy’s panned its competitors’ puny burgers with what would become an iconic slogan, “Where’s the beef?” Dave Thomas claimed his ‘Old Fashioned Hamburgers’ had more beef than McDonald’s or Burger King. Now four decades later in the midst of a climate crisis and planetary overheating, people of good faith and conscience must ask that question anew. “Where’s the beef?”

For American carnivores with a love affair for all things meaty (Arby’s: “We Have The Meats!”), the inconvenient truth is that meat production and consumption (especially beef) is a major contributor to the green house gas problem that fuels global warming and the climate crisis. Beef industry statistics show that it’s responsible for almost a fifth of the climate-altering gases in the planet’s atmosphere (methane, CO2, ammonia and other pollutants).

According to the documentary FOOD, Inc. (2009 release date), the average American is eating over 200 pounds of meat per person per year. According to a World Resources Institute analysis, if the average American simply replaced a third of the beef they eat with lower-emissions pork or poultry or legumes, their food-related emissions would fall 13 percent. Moreover, a number of studies have found that people who currently eat a meat-heavy diet could shrink their food-related footprint by one-third or more by going vegetarian.

During the upcoming six week Lenten season the Pittsboro Presbyterian Creation Justice team invites carnivores to consider answering the question, “Where’s the beef?” (or better yet, ‘where’s the meat?’).We hope and pray that the answer, over the next six weeks will be, “Not on my plate“(or at least, not as much and not as often). And after six weeks, then what? Could this Lenten journey set some folks on the long road to a predominantly plant based diet? Because the longest journey begins with the first step, why not step up and sign up for the “Greener Lent” program. Choose one of the meat abstinence levels by visiting https://greenerlent.org/fast.html. Mother Nature will thank you as you embark on your meatless or less-meat Lenten journey. You’ll be doing both the planet and your body a healthy favor.

And if you need a moral and practical ‘kick-start’ to make you click on that Greener Lent link, watching FOOD, Inc. on You Tube might just be the entree to whet your appetite and ‘steer’ you in the right direction.

Here’s some more food for thought from the EatingWell website: Animal agriculture takes on a toll on our environment and natural resources. Raising animals for meat and dairy produces about 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the entire global transportation sector. Producing meat demands a lot of water too. A 2-ounce serving of pasta requires 36 gallons of water while a 4-ounce hamburger requires 616 gallons. To combat the damage, we need to make some substantial shifts in the way we eat. The EAT-Lancet Commission, a group of 37 scientists representing 16 different countries, was tasked with establishing the best go-forward strategy when it comes to our diets and reducing climate change. Their findings? Global consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods like red meat and added sugars will need to be reduced by 50%.”

The article also touts the health benefits of plant based diet. “It’s no secret that a plant-based diet comes with lots of health benefits—swapping out meat for veggie-based proteins can be good for your heart and gut health, and it can even help you lose weight. And now a new study published in BMC Medicine is adding another item to the pro column: reduced cancer risk. The study used data from more than 470,000 British adults between the ages of 40 and 70. On average, they spent around 11 years reporting data about their eating habits and overall health to the UK Biobank. After accounting for preexisting conditions, like diabetes, plus socioeconomic and lifestyle factors, researchers from the University of Oxford found that the overall cancer risk was 14% lower among vegetarians and vegans compared to those who ate meat more than five times per week.”

Ash Wednesday reminds us that we owe our being to the soil (dust), and to the soil we shall return. May this year’s Lenten journey ground us in the moral/ethical principles of whole earth stewardship that manage the planet for the common good and the health of all creatures great and small. May it be a win-win for planet and people alike.