I remember my husband saying, “the only reason we would stop eating meat would be for sustainable reasons”. This was a good few years ago now, but today we eat far less meat for this very reason. We love food and enjoy eating out, cooking at home and experiencing local cuisine when travelling. We are not vegan nor are we vegetarian, and to be honest I don’t really want to label our eating style, I don’t want myself or anyone else to feel the pressure of being labelled. Nor do I want people to question our ethos or make a big thing of it if I have a bad day.
Growing up in my family, our standard meal was ‘meat and three veg’. I was always a fussy eater, as most of my friends will attest to, but over the past decade, my pallet has expanded and now I eat almost anything. Which is helpful in this sustainable lifestyle journey!
Veganism or vegetarianism has been a topic of conversation amongst our friends for many years. Better reporting and understanding of animal welfare abuses has shaped the diets of many, and it is great to see the wider population opting for free range chicken, eggs and pork as the new norm. But we need to take a wider perspective, because let’s face it, no matter how much we enjoy meat, farming animals for us to eat is not overly sustainable.
Photo credit @twenty20
There are approximately 7.4 billion people inhabiting our beautiful planet, and we require 30% the available land to be able to sustain the amount of meat we eat. To put this in perspective, seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more space for animal farming and the crops that feed them. (One Green Planet - Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment). And then there is the water pollution caused by agricultural runoff and the fact that an estimated 18% of the worlds greenhouse gases are as a result of animal agriculture. These few facts alone were enough for me to make the conscious decision to reduce our meat intake.
We tried “Meat Free Mondays” a while ago, but it never really worked as I didn’t really know what else to cook. I always thought I needed to have protein to have enough energy and didn’t know what I could eat as an alternative that would fill me up. However, I took inspiration from friends who are great cooks and who tend to eat less meat. Travelling through countries where the cuisine is less focused on meat also provided plenty of inspiration as to how to reduce our meat intake and still enjoy food!
Our meat-free go-to meal. Avocado, courgette pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes.
The other motivating factor for us has been trying to shop package free. Unless you are going to a butcher, meat from the supermarket generally comes pre-packaged in plastic, so by reducing our meat intake we were also reducing the amount of plastic packaging we were using. Nowadays we take our own containers to the local grocer to get package free meat, but even though the grocer sources its meat from local farms who use sustainable farming practices, we still make a conscious decision to buy less in an effort to reduce our overall environmental footprint. Meat is also the most expensive part of a grocery shop, so cutting down on the amount of meat we eat also saves us money!
I’m not going to lie and tell you we don’t eat meat. In fact, we love meat when we have it and we get a lot of enjoyment out of eating a good quality, perfectly cooked steak. However, we have significantly cut down our meat intake because we understand the impacts animal farming has on the environment. When we do eat meat, we do our best to ensure that it comes from locally sourced farms which use sustainable farming practices, and of course, we avoid any sources that are known for animal abuse.
As our sustainable journey evolves we introduce different aspect, its hard do everything at once and it can be hard to change your mindset overnight. Eating less meat has taken a while to get our heads around, we have not completely removed meat from our diets (maybe one day we will!), but right now I’m happy with the efforts we have made to reduce our impact on the environment. This is one of the many small but meaningful steps in our journey, and there will be many more to come.