THIS IS NOT A LECTURE! Full disclosure I do all the cooking at our house and that includes 6 hour ribs and Boston Butts for pulled pork. Actually it was shortly after I discovered my gift for low and slow charcoal BBQ-ing that honey proposed, coincidence, maybe. But there are some reasons you might consider eating less meat and more veg.
More disclosure I’m not really even a vegetarian. I eat game and sustainably harvested seafood from thriving fisheries. Probably once every two weeks on average. We usually get 1/4 of a moose each year and when Richard has time he hunts so that’s like every three years or so. If I were to travel I would indulge in all the local delicacies and in the past this has included foie gras. Occasionally I eat meat to be polite. Like when Richard neglected to tell customers hosting a dinner party for us I didn’t eat stake. However when asked I replied ‘medium rare.’ Once or twice a year I take a ceremonial bite of a thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. I think meat is delicious and I occasionally taste something with meat in it when I’m cooking if no one else is around. I don’t care if you eat meat and I’m not a militant vegetarian. You’ll find out my motivation as you read on.
I gave up red meat when I was 11 but relented when I was 17. Then at 22 I gave it up again, at 23, 11 years ago, I came to the arrangement I have now.
It’s hella cheaper
Holy crap meat is expensive and it seems to be going up at a higher rate than other grocery items, which are all going up too. Yes beans and dried peas cost less than anything else in the store but so do carrots, tomatoes and veggie stuff. Case in point 10 sausages was $12 today at the cheapy grocery store today 12 veggie dogs were $3.99. It’s also literally dollars off the bill if you just leave it out of a dish that doesn’t need it. The price of bacon and lunch meat is shocking. This isn’t my main reason for giving up meat but it sure is nice.
So this is my main motivation for giving up virtually all meat. In grad school I bought a biggish ground floor condo and a Jeep. I also spent a lot of time outdoors and growing food on the patio. My car was very inefficient and the condo was old and hard to heat. I drove a decent amount and took a few flights a year. So one night I sat down and calculated my carbon footprint. The average Canadian’s is around 16, mine was 17 tonnes per year! I gave up meat to get it down to 12 and keep the Jeep. Now it’s 9 tonnes not low enough but… PS I sold the Jeep. Little known fact global meat production produces more carbon dioxide than transportation, yeah, all of it.
Antidotal medical evidence
For a great number of medical ailments patients and some doctors will tell you that some patients do better on vegetarian diets. Often there isn’t and established evidence that it works and when a link is studied results prove inconclusive or no link is found. Some people get no relief when they attempt a vegetation diet. I feel like my IBS is better although high fat dairy is my main issue. I’ve also heard that some people find a lot of relief from MS, Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac’s disease, chronic fatigue and many, many more. If you’re struggling with an ailment of any sort giving up meat might be worth a try. It’s one of those things that is so easy you might as well give it a try for a few months and see what happens.
Actual medical evidence
More and more evidence suggests that a plant based diet has great health out comes. The WHO recently listed processed meats as a carcinogen and red meat as a possible one. Plant based diets have been shown to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and reduce the incidence of heat attacks and strokes. Switching to a veggie based diet has shown to reverse the effects of heart disease and diabetes. Overall vegetarians have a reduced mortality risk of about 12% but science doesn’t prove that that risk reduction is totally due to diet. They tend to make healthier choices than their meat eating counter parts so the data is muddied.
Some of this might be as simple as calorie density. Not in all cases but vegetables tend to be less calorie dense than meat. You get fuller faster plus all that fibre. 33 % of the population is obese but in vegetarians that number drops to 17% and 9% for vegans. That might be all you need to explain the health benefits. Although it is totally still possible to over do it on veggie foods, cheese pizza and ice cream are vegetarian.
Besides CO2, meat production and admittedly dairy products too create a lot of wastes. Some waste is spread onto fields as manure, lots also ends up in waste lagoons which pollute the ground and surrounding ground water. Some is even aerosolized to get around water rules so that it dries and can be trucked away. Imagine living anywhere near that.
Meat production also leads to the loss of biodiversity as it leads to mono culturing. Only the most profitable livestock species are raised so other species are abandoned. The same is true for the crops grown for feed. Since it takes about 10 lbs of feed to make 1 lb of meat the vast majority of crops are grown to feed livestock. Personally I don’t have even a little bit of a problem with GMO crops and it’s an informed opinion but if you do virtually all livestock eat GMO crops, mostly corn. With hungry people in the world I wonder why we are feeding perfectly good food to livestock to makes less food. That’s part of my motivation too. Game and the fish I eat don’t eat food that could otherwise feed the hungry.
The welfare of fuzzy creatures and their humans
Not all meat is the result of factory farming. Once a year we head up to the Wolfville farmers market for a variety of reasons. Honey always gets a few beef hearts, which I cook up for him from one particular farmer there. She tells us about her farm and the diet and life of the cows and I seriously say, I’m vegetarian can I come live there? Maybe not live but what hours do they serve lunch?
That being said most of us buy meat at the grocery store and are price conscious, that means we’re buying factory farmed meat. Chicken farming in particular is brutal to the animals and the farmers. Google ‘factory chicken barn’ and start reading. The documentary forks over knives is also a good place to start. We all turn a blind eye and don’t really want to know whats going on with our drumsticks and wings before they are breaded and fried. I firmly believe that if you eat meat you have a responsibility to face this. For the record on more than one occasion I have gutted, skinned and quarter my meat before I dropped it off for further packaging. It ain’t pretty but Bambi went quickly and had a perfect deer life right until the end. How was bessie’s life before she became your burger?
So animal welfare isn’t a huge concern for you? Animals are raised to be eaten, fair point. The same drive for affordable meat means that slaughter house workers have to work faster for less money in poorer conditions. This leads to cuts, slips, over use injuries and antibiotic resistant infections. All in all meat packing is the most dangerous factory job in the USA. Stories of paying less than minimum wage, quashing unions and deplorable working conditions abound. The charges, costs and inputs to chicken farming essentially mean the farmer can never pay off the debt they incur from the companies they farm for.
Options for limiting meat
Going vegetarian is certainly not your only option if you want to eat less meat. It could be for any of the reasons listed above or your own. If you want to limit you intake here are some ways to think about it.
One meal a day
Either make one meat a day meat free (probably breakfast) or commit to having it at only meal a day (probably dinner). Congratulations you are now up to 2/3 vegetarian.
some days a week
Meatless Mondays are a common thing, but you could do Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Weekdays or one cheat day a week. In some ways having more than one meat free day makes purchasing groceries, minimizing waste and meal planning easier than one day a week. Watch your grocery bill go down right before your eyes.
Partial vegetarianism create your own!
Sure there are prescribed categories, no red meat, no red meat or chicken, no fish, no eggs but dairy, no dairy but eggs, vegan… They all have their own special semi-latin name. Go for it make your own. Be a sober-tarian, only eat meat when your drunk. Flexitarian which essentially means veggie with the occasional Big Mac. Huntarian maybe is what I am. Swapatrian, switch out for veggie options sometimes. You do you and make up your own thing if you want.
Leave it out when it won’t be missed
Perhaps the easiest just leave it out when it won’t be missed. Leave it out of spaghetti sauce of lasagna, eat an egg and cheese sandwich and leave out the sad sausage patty. Order veggie pizza, it’s still pizza. Go for the overcooked veggie dog at the BBQ instead of the hot dog, mystery meat is not really better than mystery veg. Which leads me to my next point.
Eat meat with intentional enjoyment
You get it’s not great for you or the environment or whatever really. But you also really, really like meat. I get it, super yummy! Resolve that when you do eat it you WILL enjoy it. Treat yourself to a nice steak and make a ritual out of eating it. Take your time and savour the moment, only indulge in the best. Then you won’t miss cheap buyers and pepperoni daily when your enjoying filets of Kobe once or twice a month.