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Kara Kayser

Guest column: Choices are contagious

Choices about what to eat are deeply personal. Food can mean so many things to an individual but we can all agree that food is essential to all life. Trends can highly influence people's choices and one trend that is especially concerning to agriculture producers currently is the promotion of a meatless diet.

In many articles, a meatless diet is stressed to reduce your carbon footprint. One of the main culprits of this footprint is the huge transportation costs associated with getting this food to the consumer. The journey that food has to take by plane, ship, train, or truck and fossil fuels needed to keep this food cooled has a significant cost to the environment. Generally, the closer something is grown or produced, the better.

For people in the Midwest, fruits and vegetables are coming from a much further distance at certain times of the year than meat. Meat is produced in the Midwest, is readily available, and utilizes locally grown feed from land - sometimes deemed useless for anything else. When you support local farmers, you don't have to worry about how far your food traveled to get to you.

In addition, many people who choose to start a meatless diet unknowingly rely on heavily processed food which is more resource-intensive to produce. People still want food that is quick and easy, which is defeating the purpose of switching in the first place. Instead of encouraging a meatless diet, we should encourage researching where your food comes from so that people can purchase locally produced items including meats, veggies, fruits and grains for a balanced diet. Plan meals, cook these items at home and eat leftovers.

In regard to reducing the carbon footprint, there are many ways we can encourage changes that have a large effect on the environment. Ease deliveries - an average FedEx package is associated with 9.6 pounds of greenhouse emissions. Our need for next day shipping, which Amazon just announced as standard for Prime, makes it harder for services to organize efficient deliveries or bundle, in turn creating more emissions, not less. Unplug devices, drive less or carpool, plant a garden, avoid one flight per year and buy less stuff.

We get to choose what we put in our body for fuel and everyone is different. It's important for people to be aware which choices have the biggest impact and to know why they are making that decision. Choices are contagious, what will yours be?