Growing up we ate nothing but chicken, turkey and fish like haddock and cod. Absolutely nothing else entered my family’s white meat and two veg British diet. It was little sacrifice to become a vegetarian from the ages of 11 to 17. But then, just shy of my 18th birthday on holiday in Greece, my friend offered me a bite of her steak, perfectly cooked rare red meat. And I was hooked.
I adore meat. Little makes me happier than steak, venison, game and haggis. But I know the environmental impact of meat and eating it as much as I’d like isn’t an option that wouldn’t make me a total hypocrite. For the last four or five years I’ve been really aware of consciously choosing to eat meat as a treat, but I’ve noticed that since moving in with my boyfriend in October the frequency and quantity of meat I’ve been eating has increased again.
So one of my new year’s resolutions is to get back on track with meat reduction. For me that means:
- no more than two portions of meat a week – preferably bought from the local butcher
- learning to cook more low-dairy meals so my diet isn’t a high-fat, high-carbon cheese fest
- cooking vegetarian meals for other people to prove that non-meat meals can be tasty and fancy.
The last one sometimes feels the biggest struggle. When we have people round for dinner it feels natural to cook ‘dinner party’ type food which usually revolves around meat. Because meat is the most expensive part of a meal I worry it’ll make me look cheap if I don’t cook with it or that my friends will do that awful ‘it’s not a meal if it’s not got meat’ rant – or even worse ‘men need to eat meat’. On Monday night my French-born, South-African raised friend came round for dinner and I held firm, cooking aubergine parmigiana from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Veg Every Day. Although it took a while, it was delicious and she had seconds. If she cooks that meal as a replacement for a meat meal once a month then that might be better campaigning than banging on about the carbon emissions of pesticides or deforestation for soy plantations.
But that’s still a bit small isn’t it? I always think that the Meat Free Monday campaign, whilst well-intentioned, is disingenuous because it implies that cutting our meat consumption by a seventh (or even a fourteenth if they presume most people eat meat for lunch as well as dinner) is enough. When actually the reality is that Western meat consumption will need to halve to deliver the carbon reductions we need to meet our 2050 climate change targets. So what’s the solution? Answers on a postcard…