I am going to make a lot of bold claims without providing any sort of scientific study for references. If that bothers you, I advise against continuing reading. Also, I have to point out that I do not consume properly— yet. Unfortunately, we all succumb to the same corrupted forces that run the global economy. But it is important that you continuously set and improve your aim on a better solution so that you are aware of, and can make the right changes when they are presented as such.
The relationship we humans have with the fellow animals on this planet goes well beyond the meat they provide.
We have a specifically unique symbiotic relationship with the rest of the animals—a relationship that needs to be maintained (a lot) better. For livestock animals especially, we provide them with food, water, and shelter, and they provide us with food, tools, leather and warm clothes for the winter.
Now, it is extremely important to note that when I mention livestock animals, I am talking about properly raised, grass-fed, or free-range animal products. Factory farming is cruel to both the animal and us humans, and it needs to end.
Picture properly raised cows chilling in an open grass field, or a flock of chickens roaming around within a fence. They’re better off within that fence than they are in the wilderness where wolves and bears literally want to eat them alive. Or the wilderness where their next meal is not certain. The shelter that humans are able to provide keep these animals safe, and give them a full, peaceful life. That exchange between us and the animals is designed by nature! A design that goes well beyond meat.
The logic behind this relationship between humans and animal is simple: if you raise healthy cows you get healthy meat, and if you raise shitty cows you get shitty meat. Nature has designed this incentive structure on its own. Even down to the stress levels of the animal right before death... if you stress an animal out before it dies, the meat is worse to eat. Halal for the win. Obviously business culture has temporarily ruined that by incentivising profit over health. But look at any ancient religious culture and how they treated meat. They understood this natural incentive structure and worshipped their Gods for providing it. In the story of Genesis in the Bible, Cain learned this the hard way: Genesis 4:3-5.
The healthy meat you get from cows is the best food on the planet and there is no alternative to grass-fed beef. It is the highest source of (almost) every essential nutrient and it’s in a bioavailable form which means your body can actually digest and utilize the nutrients. Plants are secondary. We barely digest plants. Not to mention plants are full of toxins (antinutrients) that harm the human body if they aren’t prepared right. That doesn't mean fruits and vegetables don't play an important role in our health, I am just arguing that animal meat and animal fat is our primary source of nutrition. Grass-fed beef does not have antinutrients, it is the perfect food for humans. Ruminants provide us the perfect food, and we provide a method of raising and killing them that brings them more peace than they would if they were hunted by wolves, or starving in the wild. Ruminant animals eat grass and take in oxygen to grow more animals (Cellular Respiration). Grass turns rain, sunlight and the methane gas that is produced by the cows to grow more grass (Photosynthesis). We humans can't eat only grass—or any wild plant for that matter. With their specifically designed digestive system, they eat the grass and turn it into a human superfood. You see the cycle, it's amazing!
If you want to be on team Earth, I believe the correct action is to support your local grass-fed, free-range, or wild-caught animal products. It is not to give up meat entirely. That won’t sustainably solve anything and will create more problems than it solves. For example, over-consuming plants is a real problem for the health of your body and the planet. Especially when you consider that 1 average steak has 700 full-nutrient calories, compared to an apple with 100 near-empty calories. Completely eliminating animal products is not how humans were designed to fit into nature, so obviously it comes with consequences. This goes for both ends of the spectrum. Poorly raised animals are also not how humans are supposed to fit in either, so that too comes with consequences.
In the grand scale of time, things get worse before they get better. We had to find a way to feed 8 billion (and growing) people, and the solution was not perfect. But through the advancement of technology, solving this problem will be yet another step towards reducing unnecessary suffering. My mind is not closed on lab-grown meat. If technology can get there. But it is not there yet. The soy-based meat does not come close to comparing what cows have to offer. But why even stop eating meat? Isn't that a disservice to the animals we provide for? What do we do if we are able to grow meat perfectly? Put the animals back into the wild to suffer and die? Like I said, I am not closed-minded on lab-grown meat, but not if that means ditching our nature-given duty to these animals.
All things on Earth, living or not, are components of One system. One Earth. Each component has unique abilities which give unique function to the whole. For example, bees and their unique ability to distribute pollen play a vital role in the one Earth system. But without any prior knowledge, looking at a bee on a flower, you would likely be unaware that the bees are actually doing the flowers a massive favour. It is the bees nature-given duty to distribute pollen. Now consider humans unique ability to build fences with our opposable thumbs and prefrontal cortex. Should those fences only exist to keep humans safe and that's it? Just because the cows do not have the ability to ask for a fence, or does not have the ability to be aware of what the purpose of a fence is, does not mean it is wrong to fence them in. We as humans, with our big brains, are able to recognize what the cows can not and act accordingly. Now how do you know that nature has given us this duty? Because healthy meat is the best food on the planet for humans, and that is not an accident.
Our relationship with other animals has been carved out over a very long period of time, and it is just another feat of nature. A feat of nature that I believe is worth the same sense of awe as Niagara Falls.