A few of you may have seen my Instagram stories recently where I’ve been talking about trailing a ‘Meat Free January’. Don’t worry this isn’t a national movement that you’ve somehow missed out on*, like Stoptober or Movember (*although I have discovered Vegananuary since writing this). Being Vegetarian for a month is just something I’ve been meaning to trial for a long time, so jumping on the tried and tested ‘new year, new me’ bandwagon I’m using January as an excuse to do it. Buy whyyyyyy I hear so many of you ask? My husband is mortified and my Dad dumbfounded? Why would you choose to give up precious burgers and steaks when you’ve always been such a big meat eater all your life??
I must admit I do understand their trepidation, a large beef burrito has been my weekly Thursday treat for as long as I can remember and its very rare that I don’t tuck into a big Spag Bol or Lasagne at least once a week, so why choose to deny myself those luxuries?
Well there are a few reasons really. First and foremost I want to spice up my cooking game and add more variety to our evening meals. We enjoy cooking and generally cook every meal we eat from scratch, however we’ve fallen into a little rabbit hole of one pot dishes or stir fry’s which generally revolve around the main component being meat. I find vegetarian dishes much more flavourful and diverse, probably because they aren’t just relying on the flavour of the meat to bring out the taste. Because of that my thought process is that by being vegetarian for a month, I’ll be forced to be a little more creative with my cooking and reach for ingredients I wouldn’t usually consider. The same goes for restaurants, somehow I feel a little short changed if I don’t opt for a meat dish from the menu when we dine out. Again I want to change this mindset.
The second reason I’m trailing being a veggi is for social reasons. As I say above, I’ve always been a carnivore and loved to eat meat, however recently I’ve found myself becoming more and more aware of bulk farming practices, the agriculture impacts of climate change and gut health and have found there are a few things which don’t sit well with me to the point that I’ve stopped getting as much enjoyment out of eating a big juicy burger with all the trimmings.
So what are these things I speak of which have caused me to question my enjoyment of meat?
- Well firstly a lot of the meat we eat isn’t actually 100% meat! I was so shocked at this, but much of the meat we find on our supermarket shelves is pumped with water and steroids. Some meat such as that from the butcher is better than others, but if you’re ever unsure look at how small your chicken chunks shrink down to next time you cook a stir fry, if they end up half the size, it may be time to change your meat source;
- Studies have found that you would have to eat six intensively reared chickens today to get the same amount of nutrients as one chicken produced in the 1970s! (yikes!)
- Pork (one of my favourite meats), actually goes rancid really quickly so to keep it fresh long enough on the supermarket shelves, it’s filled with preservatives and stabilisers. The lower quality the meat (e.g. cheap supermarket ham), the lower the actual meat content;
- The land take required to produce enough corn to feed cattle is HUGE! If the level of meat consumption increases in the way it has over the past 30 years, there simply wont be enough room left on the planet!
- Our bodies don’t actually need meat every day to function and in fact its difficult for our gut to digest.. Until relatively recently meat was always a bit of a luxury enjoyed only a couple of times a week. It is thought that the over consumption of meat treated with preservatives and pesticides could be leading to higher incidents of heart disease, kidney failure, Type 2 Diabetes and Crohns disease;
- 94% of chickens in the UK come from intensively reared birds or ‘factory farms’. and this has risen by 26% in the last five years. Animals in these farms are kept in over crowded conditions and given growth hormones to fatten them up quickly. They are also given routine antibiotics to prevent disease and it is thought that the over-consumption of meat treated from these sources is partially responsible for humans growing resistance to these drugs;
- Intensive farming practices are pushing local, more ethical farmers out of business. There are 750,000 fewer dairy cows in the UK compared to two decades ago and yet we produce more milk today than at anytime in the last 25 years. Around 22,000 smaller dairy farmers have gone out of business in the last twenty years and those that remain have had to scale significantly to extract more milk from a fewer number of cows.
livestock emissions currently account for 14.5% of global greenhouse gases which is greater than transport’s 13% contribution.
Useful resource: Farmdrop.com
Sorry if you weren’t thinking of giving up meat and we’re just here for a nosey, hope that hasnt made you feel ill! Iit actually pained me a little to write this post because I am a meat eater and have always loved to eat meat! But as meat eater I was also interested to know these facts about where my meat was coming from. I don’t disagree with the concept of eating meat, it’s the current method of over farming and over processing meat that has made me little wary. Perhaps meat from organic farms is better? I would be really interested to hear your views.
I’ve been veggi (well Pescatarian as I’m still eating fish) for over a week now and I can honestly say I haven’t found it as difficult as I first thought. I’ve found some brilliant recipes in 15 Minute Vegan and Take One Veg and have just ordered Leon: Fast Vegetarian and Fresh India too. We had a lovely bean chilli the first night which was so filling there were enough left overs to last a second night too! (My husband never leaves left overs!), then we’ve had a spring greens risotto, special fried rice and vegetarian pizzas. I‘ve also been out to dinner twice and opted for a prawn burrito (as opposed to my much loved beef) and a vegetable lasagna. Both were delicious and didn’t make me miss meat at all.
I’m not sure where my meat free January experiment will take me, hopefully to the point that I am no longer reliant on meat for the main component of my diet and definitely to the point where I’ll only buy locally produced or organic meat where I have to buy meat at all. I think I am a long way off becoming a full time vegetarian, however hopefully this move will help me to reduce my meat consumption and maybe if more of us tried it, we could all take a little step towards improving our planet.
If you are interested to learn more, there are are many many other blogs out there who can explain the environmental benefits of going vegan/vegetarian much better than me. There are also loads of sites with tasty vegetarian recipes to try such as Just Average Jen. If you are at the start of your learning journey like me, then hopefully you’ve found the pitch of this blog post useful. There are two documentaries on Netflix which are supposed to be really good ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘What the Health’, however to date I’ve been a little too scared to watch them (again all for the love of my beef burrito), however maybe after this month I will. I also found Farmdrop.com blog a really useful resource.