I love animals. I also love steak.

As a teenager I definitely went through my fair share of times when I wanted to go vegetarian. And I would… for about a week. Then my mom would make her breaded fried pork chops or me and my friends would be passing through a McDonald’s drive-thru and I’d crack.

I was also very underweight as a teen so doctors warned against my giving up meat altogether.

But lately I’ve been giving it a lot of consideration. I don’t want to be unrealistic here – I don’t think I’d be ready to give up all meat entirely, but I’d like to try preparing more vegetarian dishes and cutting down on my meat intake. There are so many health implications associated with eating meat, not to mention the negative impact meat-production has on the environment.

A few facts I learned:

- According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

- A Harvard study found that women who eat more than 1.5 servings of red meat per day are nearly twice as likely to develop hormone-related breast cancer compared to women who eat fewer than three servings per week. The American Journal of Epidemiology also found that there’s a solid connection between heart disease and meat consumption. In recent years, health concerns have been raised about the consumption of meat increasing the risk of cancer – in particular, red meat and processed meat were found to be associated with higher risk of cancers of the lung, esophagus, liver, and colon, among others.

- More than 8 billion chickens are killed for their flesh each year, and 280 million hens are used for their eggs. Ninety-nine percent of these animals spend their lives in total confinement.

The arguments about why meat consumption is dangerous, unhealthy and somewhat unethical can go on and on.

Now like I said, I don’t think that, at this point in my life, I could give up on meat entirely, but I could definitely cut back. I could experiment with other ingredients (pastas, rice, beans, and more) and try to eat a few more meatless meals. And I could definitely make more of an effort to buy my meat and eggs from free-range local suppliers. I’d like to spend the summer checking out more markets and farm stands.

If everyone put in a little more time and consideration when consuming meat, if we all took a moment to really think about the animal who gave up their life to give us that steak or chop or cutlet, then maybe the way in which we raise and eat animals would become more responsible.

Food for thought…