Meat. Should we reduce how much we eat? Should we cut it out altogether? The number of people who have done just that counts for 2% or 1.2 million people in the UK, with half a million people leading a vegan lifestyle, a number which has increased 360% in a decade. We asked three members of our team what they think about eating meat.
Emily Hogg, Marketing Assistant
I’m being honest when I say, five years ago I wouldn’t have considered becoming a vegan or vegetarian. I wouldn’t have considered it because eating meat was a normal part of life. My friends, mum and sister all ate meat, and I only knew one vegetarian who acted incredibly superior whenever I asked about her dietary choices.
When I started working at Cundall in 2015, I was aware of the impact animals had on the planet, but in a far more distant sense. I knew that cows had the most impact and chickens had the least, that eating vegetarian would be better for the planet but why would I care, bacon tasted great!
In all truth, I’ve never actually liked bacon that much.
From the integration of Meat Free Week at work in Sydney to serving vegetarian food at our events to reading blogs like Amie Shuttleworth’s on her own diet – vegetarianism became something I would consider for myself because other people were doing it and because the food was equally good.
But I didn’t start big, at first it was really simple and easy, integration of vegetarian meals into my diet. My room mates suggested I could get more from my budget by replacing meat with legumes. When I swapped beans for mince in my income-saving batch meal Bolognese, I was a convert, lentils were cheaper, easier and more healthy than meat and pasta.
I started making more vegetarian meals and as I went on, I learned to make more with the vegetables that I did buy, more vegetable soups, salads, vegetables as the centrepiece of a dish and that weren’t just the side of boiled broccoli which, let’s be honest, is boring.
Now I only buy meat once every two weeks or less and all my lunches are vegetarian.
I’m not saying full vegetarianism is for everyone, it’s not really even for me, but when I think about people saying, all the anti-vegetarian things I said five years ago, I wonder if it’s because they really think that or because they’re just repeating all the things they’ve read in an online article.
Matt Hart, Learning & Development Adviser, HR
I have become what I would describe as a ‘reluctant vegetarian’. Full disclosure, I love eating meat. Always have. I really enjoy good steak, or a joint of lamb – these are some of life’s great pleasures. However, I have recently found that I am unable to eat these things.
A long with a lot of people, I believe that we shouldn’t just bury our heads in the sand. If I was going to eat meat, I wanted to know all of the facts. So I spent a bit of time learning about the industry, learning about animal welfare, learning about the impact on the planet, and it had a really profound impact on me. I’d never realised the extent of the damage. For example, I’d never realised the level of deforestation to make way for agriculture.
Initially I thought I would move to just buying local food. I was to become one of those boring people who waxes lyrical about the organic meat they bought. The beef from the cow that lived a better life than most royalty and was handfed grass by a servant farmer whilst being gently massaged before it voluntarily donated a leg or two to the butcher. For a little while this was ok. However, once again I spent some time looking into the facts and realised that most of the benefits of buying local meat were not true. More importantly, this time, I had begun to find the idea of eating the animal particularly off-putting. We’re learning more and more about animals, and it seems that they are way more switched on that we ever realised (did anybody see the clam-bashing fish on Blue Planet?!). Before long, the tasty looking fillet on my plate wasn’t just a steak or a chop, it was a piece of anatomy. It was a working muscle with tendons and fascia. It wasn’t very appetising.
As a keen runner and wannabe triathlete, I did initially worry about the impact of cutting out meat and was concerned that I would not get enough protein to train and race regularly. I needn’t have worried though; it couldn’t be easier to get more than enough protein from all sorts of other sources – milk, eggs, nuts, vegetables, the occasional bit of Quorn. My diet has actually improved significantly. I just wish my race results had too.
So now I don’t eat meat. Do I miss it? Yes, I miss the flavours, but right now I cannot stand the thought of it.
We all are told that meat has the highest carbon footprint of our food chain, right? And so we follow the notion with meat, as with so many other foodstuffs, that to buy local is the panacea.
Well, for meat, the answer is not that simple. In fact this notion is fantasy.
Our local farmers are hauling meat, sometimes hundreds of miles, to find the nearest approved abattoir or to chase valuable extra revenue. The reality is your Sunday joint may have travelled 200 miles for processing, before returning 200 miles back to the shop fridges, and all so the ‘local’ claim can be substantiated.
I can cite the anecdotes from one farmer in the valleys of North Northumberland who sees his livestock transported more than 150 miles into Yorkshire for processing, only for it to end up back in the local Co-Op a matter of a few miles away down the valley. But at least its local right? And apparently, we are told, that’s a good thing.
Ever increasing food regulation, market competition and improvements to our road infrastructure see our food miles spiral, and our impacts multiply. The winners are becoming harder to see. The losers are you and I, and the environment we share.
The reality is, that the only solution if you want to be truly ‘sustainable’, might just be to look for an alternative…
Rachel Allen, BSc MSc DrPH RNutr (Public Health)
By cutting out meat, fish, eggs and dairy products it is important to remember you are also cutting out sources of essential nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans should ensure they include in their diet non-meat sources of iron (e.g. pulses, green vegetables and fortified foods); B12 (e.g. fortified foods such as yeast extract) and vitamin D (fortified foods or a supplement). In addition vegans should ensure they get enough calcium (e.g. pulses and fortified dairy-alternatives).