While many people in New Zealand seem pretty smug about our clean green image, it’s always an awakening experience when the States does something that is worthy of applause. Take Meatless Mondays for example. This article at the Centre for a livable future caught my eye (and it’s really worth reading for a rational voice for eating less meat), because while I have stopped eating meat (except for seafood, which I realise is something I need to think about), I have no problem with people eating meat, as long as they do it in moderation, which, as far as the current Western diet, is a bit laughable. Cheap meat is being added to more and more things where it previously did not belong, and the saddest thing for me as a food lover is that most of it doesn’t even taste any better. Cheap meat is icky, not necessarily because it’s cheap per se, but because generally, it’s farmed in a way that lowers the economic cost of production, and simultaneously, the standards of farming. And you can taste it. Anyway, before I get on a vegetarian rant, Meatless Mondays is a phenomenon which asks families and individuals to make a pledge to eat vegetarian on Mondays. If you’ve seen the American love of bacon, you’ll know that this is not going to be an easy task. Yet all over the world, food blogs and chefs are recognising that the current way Western countries eat meat is not healthy, for themselves or for the environment. Farming animals is not inherently unsustainable, but we’re pushing our luck. According to the Food climate research network, to feed the world in the near future the maximum allowance of meat and dairy would be equivalent to about 2 sausages, a small piece of chicken, and a small pork chop. Per week. That, and milk for cereal and maybe tea (this is from Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing).
New Zealanders like their cheese, and they love their steak. Cattle farms here may not be as atrocious just yet, but even for the reasons of personal health and eating more variety, eating less meat is going to be a treat. As someone who now thinks about food with passion, I can say that eating little to no meat has been a pure blessing. I was determined to prove that a vegetarian diet can be just as rewarding taste, health, and variety wise, and I feel confident and proud to say that I’ve done just that. My best friend and past flat mate now eats spinach and feta, I never feel tempted to eat meat, even my past favourite dishes, and most surprisingly of all, I have a far more varied diet because I don’t just rely on meat for protein. The cooking skills, the knowledge about how to eat healthy, and the adventure of eating now is so worth it. I considered supporting more sustainable meat farms, but honestly, I don’t miss meat enough. It turns out not eating meat was a lot easier than I thought.
Anyway, I hope you give it a try, and challenge yourself a little at first. Obviously I still love and eat cheese, but for the sake of variety I haven’t stopped looking to vegan sources of protein, like amaranth or quinoa. Yeah. Make life interesting.