I was a private equity investor for over 20 years with more than 10 years focused on food and agriculture. It was during this time that I learned how broken the US food system was with our over reliance on meat & dairy, heavy use of chemical farming and monoculture cropping that destroys our soil & biodiversity. But it was in 2016 at an Esca Bona conference that I was enlightened on the climate impacts of animal agriculture.
I had been a climate activist for many years prior to 2016. What drove me to climate activism was a dream I had in which I was talking to an imaginary future granddaughter, and she asked me the question, “if you knew how to stop climate change when you were younger, what did you do to stop it?” That dream shocked me into action because I wanted to prove to my future generations that I was part of the solution. Until 2016, all my climate focus was on energy emissions and potential cap and trade programs, but all that was about to change.
In late 2016, I attended a conference called Esca Bona and it was there that I learned of the climate impact of animal agriculture. Several experts were indicating that animal agriculture and its inputs cause 15% of all GHG emissions in the US. That was a staggering number because it was more than all the cars and trucks on the road which only contribute 14%. Frankly, I did not believe the number but when I got home, I went to work validating the numbers.
Using USDA and EPA data on GHG emissions by industry, I did several calculations on several aspects of animal agriculture, including raising the animals, growing crops to feed them, creating fertilizers for those crops, manufacturing and slaughter processes, and transportation of animals and the finished products. It was a very detailed analysis and when I completed it, I was blown away. I came up with a range of 16% to 19% of all GHGs contributed by animal agriculture! My result was even higher than the experts at the conference. It was also depressing to learn that 65% of all the crops we grow in the US are fed to animals. Think about that, nearly 2/3 of our agriculture cropland is NOT used to feed humans, but rather to feed animals. I was convinced that animal agriculture was an incredibly inefficient system and it was not sustainable as our population grows.
This was my epiphany moment, I now realized that the greatest single climate impact I could have, or any American can have, is to dramatically reduce or eliminate meat and dairy from my diet. I started immediately with Meatless Monday, which I amped up to Vegan Monday. Then I started adding additional days per week until I was fully vegan in early 2017. While I was driven by climate action, this ended up being the 2nd best decision of my life (after choosing my wonderful wife, of course) for several additional reasons.
Going vegan ended up having a huge positive influence on my life for many reasons beyond climate. Certainly, I felt much better about the direct action I was taking toward reducing my GHG emissions but during that first year of veganism I also lost 25 pounds. And yet, I never felt like I was dieting. I ate as much as I wanted when I was hungry, and the pounds just seemed to melt away every month because I was good healthy food that were not calorie dense. In addition, I felt like I had taken the red pill in the Matrix and was finally awakened to the horrors and injustice of the animal agriculture industry. We all become anesthetized to the shameful practices of the meat and dairy industries but once you remove the blinders through veganism, it becomes obvious that what we are doing is wrong. Veganism has become a three legged stool because it is better for our health, better for the planet and better for the animals.
Finally, the other huge benefit of my journey was it led me to identifying the opportunity to cofound Cool Beans. After going vegan in 2017, I started cooking a lot more but also was looking for prepared whole food plant-based options in the frozen aisle of the grocery store for when I did not have time to cook. But I quickly learned, that while there was a lot of prepared vegan food in the stores, most of it was vegan junk food – highly processed, high in saturated fat, containing fake meat or fake cheese. Where were the whole food plant-based options? It was identifying this white space that led to the formation of Cool Beans. Our goal was to create the first family of products that offered plant-based products with whole food ingredients, minimally processed, and never containing fake meat or fake cheese.
Veganism has had so many positive benefits on my life, that I will never go back to meat or dairy. My only regret is that I did not start sooner. I wish I could go back 10-15 years and make the change! I am healthier and happier with a true sense of mission for the health of humans, the planet, and the animals. I highly recommend you start your journey as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.