A quarter pounder with cheese and all the garnish, fresh T-bones on the barbeque,¬†deep fried calamari and warm roast lamb on Sundays. It‚Äôs the stuff dreams are made¬†of. All that meaty, salty goodness is entrenched in our culture and there is nothing as¬†wonderful as a feast on the absolute deliciousness of it all. But, have you considered¬†the impact that meat eating has on the environment? Would you consider changing¬†the way you eat for the sake of the planet?
Sustainable diets have become the focus of many environmental movements around¬†the world. Climatarians, identified by their catchy¬†slogan ‚Äúless meat, less heat‚Äù, focus on reducing overall CO2 emissions¬†through lower meat consumption, and therefore reducing global temperatures in¬†the long term. In fact, at lessmeatlessheat.org they state that reducing meat¬†consumption to what’s considered a healthy amount would allow us to keep global temperature¬†rise to within 2 degrees celcius by 2050. This fact also highlights that at the moment,¬†the average Western person is consuming too much meat for their own health.
There is also the sustainarian concept of eating. This form of sustainable eating focuses¬†on the way food is produced and whether or not the producing practices have a long¬†term negative effect on the environment. This form of sustainable eating would¬†avoid any kind of farmed meat, would lean towards local produce and would take¬†into account agricultural practises when deciding what to have for dinner.
The meat industry contributes to twenty percent of global carbon emissions. That¬†means twenty percent towards our global warming crisis. We know that a large¬†consumption of meat is showing to be less than optimal for our health. Finally, we¬†are aware that the treatment of animals in the food industry is very bad and at times¬†downright inhumane.¬†We are all conscious that our planet is taking strain, in fact we know it‚Äôs in trouble.¬†Many of us are trying our best to make lifestyle changes that could help. When it¬†comes to our diets though, we tend to get a little more protective. Food is pleasure.¬†Sometimes nothing is going to satisfy that craving for a triple cheese steak, except a¬†triple cheese steak. We are by nature‚Äôs design, omnivores, created to eat both¬†animals and plants. Our meat eating ways are a primal instinct that we may find¬†difficult to let go of. Eating, at the end of the day, is a selfish act. We eat to nourish¬†ourselves and we eat for the pleasure of it.
One sustainable eating movement that sticks out just for¬†the amount of traction they have gained, particularly with ever conscious millenials,¬†is the movement known as reducetarian. This movement focuses on¬†reducing the consumption of animal protein. It deviates from the necessity of an all¬†or nothing approach. In this way it speaks to people who are not quite ready to give¬†up our double glazed, sweet and sour, flame grilled ribs on a permanent basis but, at¬†the same time may be questioning the ethical and health implications attached to¬†their carnivorous preferences. We know it takes a lot of water to make that quarter¬†pounder. In fact according to National Geographic, we need nearly seven thousand¬†litres to make half a kilogram of beef. That‚Äôs a lot of water, especially in these El Nino¬†times where parts of the world are getting pretty parched.
The reducetarian movement‚Äôs name speaks volumes. Their founder, Brian Kateman gave an inspiring Ted talk explaining the need¬†for a word. First of all, this term is inclusive aiming to bridge the divide between¬†vegans and meat eaters. Under this definition a vegan can also be a reducetarian. As¬†humans, we like definitions. We like categories. We trust them and it helps us to¬†organize our thoughts to propel us to make decisions. So, if you are not sure you can¬†manage vegetarianism or veganism, but you do want to start making sustainable¬†health choices, this makes it easier to explain your dining habits to your curious carnivore friends, as¬†well as define it for yourself. The website encourages you to start with a pledge to reduce¬†meat eating for 30 days, and gives you a strategy to pick from. Meatless Monday?¬†Not too difficult. A week day vegetarian? That seems doable.
The global impact of¬†this movement has the potential to be huge. If every single person on the planet¬†practiced a Meatless Monday, it would have the same effect as taking 237 million¬†vehicles off the road for a year.¬†If we all cut our meat and dairy¬†consumption by half, we could reduce carbon emissions from the industry by 25¬†percent.
A reducetarian way of eating alleviates the pressure to be perfect, while at the same¬†time expresses the human capacity for caring about the world outside. It means you¬†can have a plate of your mom‚Äôs special pot roast, while also collectively making a huge impact¬†on the planet. In an interview with Huffington Post, Brian Kateman said,¬†‚ÄúReducetarianism unites all the individuals who are committed to eating less meat¬†regardless of where they fall along the spectrum of consuming animal products. This¬†is a difficult, but an important realization for many of my vegan and vegetarian friends: not everyone is able, or willing, to follow a completely animal-product-free diet.‚Äù
This really rings true on my own quest to become a vegan. I find myself falling off the wagon, sometimes just out of pure hunger. A few weeks of perfect eating¬†inevitably lead to a break down of guilt ridden burger-eating and milkshake-drinking.¬†However, under the reducetarian umbrella this would be perfectly acceptable. I¬†could do this, knowing I am making a difference, even though I don‚Äôt have perfect¬†will power.
If you are still feeling that a Monday without meat is going to be a major sacrifice,¬†don‚Äôt lose hope. There’s always lab-grown! Scientists around the world have pegged onto the fact that meaty¬†tastes are not going to be sustainable long term. In preparation they’ve started to grow our favourite foods in science¬†labs. In as soon as three to five years you can have your favourite meaty delights¬†including beef, chicken and pork grown from stem cells. This method of¬†creating meat claims to use 90% less water, 50% less energy and no animals have to¬†die. So hang in there, science is out to solve this dilemma. In the mean time take a¬†look at your diet and think about sustainable eating as the way of future.
Photography by Alix-Rose Cowie