Nothing beats a good succulent steak (except perhaps a warm bacon butty after a night in a tent). But you can have too much of a good thing and that is a trap we humans are falling into with our increasingly carnivorous ways. Make meat a treat for a couple of months and you will improve your health, wallet and culinary expertise, not to mention your carbon footprint.
Cows burp. A lot. And pigs eat. A lot.
Roughly 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by livestock farming,1 that’s more than is produced by transport. The emissions are a result of increasing deforestation (to make space for growing animal feeds) and the methane gas emitted from belching cows. And on top of all that, there’s the energy-intensive production of fertilisers and all the transport involved.
In other words, meat is a pretty inefficient (albeit tasty) energy source, and the amount of land and energy needed to feed a vegetarian is a great deal less than that needed to feed a ravenous meat-eater.
From horsemeat scandals to battery-farmed chickens, a common motivation for vegetarianism is the poor animal welfare. Just listen to Jonathan Safran Foer for a glimpse into the reality of where our food comes from, or if you really want a raw idea of what’s going on, watch Earthlings. Warning: not for the faint hearted. If you can stomach this, you can stomach anything (except meat).
The primary cause of tropical deforestation is agriculture.2 Aside from staggering greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation leads to a whole host of problems. It displaces local communities, causes social unrest and corruption, disturbs rainfall patterns, increases flood risks, contaminates rivers and endangers native species. Basically, it’s bad news.
Eating too much red meat is also bad for us – not least for our waistlines and arteries. Meat and dairy are the main source of saturated fats in our western diets, and their growing popularity is partly responsible for the huge increase in cases of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.
You needn't become a die-hard vegetarian, but going meat-free for a few days isn't too tough. When you do have a meaty treat, why not use the money you've saved on buying some free-range or organic meat, or experiment with some less well-used cuts? There's more to life than chicken breast and stewing steak.
Cooking up vegetarian meal requires some imagination but a good vegetarian dish can be nutritious, bursting with flavours and cheap too.
• Yotam Ottolenghi's incredible cooking column in the Guardian, The New Vegetarian, is a tasty source of inspiration.
• We also recommend Less Meat More Veg to help you cook up a vegetarian storm.
To make the transition that bit easier, why not have your fresh veg delivered to your doorstep? Organic veg box schemes like Riverford, Abel & Cole, and many more provide variety of great vegetables in different amounts depending on your household.
It's actually incredibly easy to do once you use your imagination a little and check out some new recipes!
I think I'll eat more veggie meals from now on so thanks for helping me make the change!
I found it really useful to have this in mind when I was eating out and shopping. I have been virtually meat free for weeks/months now and feeling loads better for it.
I actually went fully vegetarian for the period of lent. Am now back on meat but will definitely cut down the amount I eat each week.
I found it quite easy by replacing my meat with meat free product and fish, which I will be doing from now on. Thank you for your support.
I went completely vegetarian from the beginning of my first pledge until the 26th of April! Meat is most definitely now a treat, I now only really eat meat if it's been bought and cooked for me by someone else! I feel healthier and save money by eating less meat. Delicious results x