Crosspost on the EA Forum

On my first day of college - August 18th, 2021 - I decided to strive towards becoming vegetarian, primarily for animal welfare reasons. Before college, I consumed around a median American quantity of meat, but I decided to make this change because Berkeley has more accessible vegetarian options compared to home. Since then, I’ve avoided meat for roughly 90% of meals.

Thoughts:

  • Reducing my meat consumption has been surprisingly manageable so far - I’ve never craved the meat options at the dining hall because the food isn’t great overall. In addition, I can order/cook my own food in college instead of eating the same meal as my family back home, so I have higher agency over what I eat. In January 2022, I was fortunate to eat great catered vegan food at MLAB, which made being vegetarian much easier at that time.
  • I wonder how much my reduction in meat consumption actually decreases meat production, and which actions are higher-impact than others; for example, unsure if eating vegetarian at my dining hall matters if they order the same amount of vegetarian/non-vegetarian food regardless of demand or throw away unserved leftovers.
  • It’s not clear to me whether being vegetarian is effectively altruistic compared to other actions one could take, and I’m not sure if being vegetarian is more expensive than eating meat.
    • Example: I went to an EA retreat which catered vegetarian burgers that cost >$10 each. I’m curious whether it would be better to eat McDonalds and donating the difference to ACE-recommended charities.
  • This food impacts calculator by VilleSokk suggests that both caged and cage-free eggs both have higher animal welfare/carbon emissions impact per calorie than pork. Could some vegetarian diets increase harm by offsetting protein from meat with eggs?
  • I’m somewhat worried about being vegetarian next year, as I’ll be cooking and meal-prepping with my non-vegetarian flatmates. It’s probably significantly more difficult to become vegetarian while living in or cooking for a non-vegetarian household, as buying/cooking separate meals for each other sounds challenging.
  • I consumed some meat with family during Thanksgiving and the first two weeks of winter break, and with friends on Chinese New Year. I haven’t eaten much Chinese food outside of large gatherings as it seems more difficult to remain vegetarian.
    • Food is shared in Chinese restaurants, in contrast to other situations where individuals buy their own plate of food; though its higher impact to get a whole table to eat vegetarian, it’s also significantly harder than just ordering vegetarian for oneself.
    • At festive Chinese meals, many dishes can have small amounts of meat (e.g. tofu with shredded meat).