Guest contributor: Cassie Duncan + Hayley Tillard of Sustainable Table.
At the risk of making sweeping generalisations, it does appear that men are far more affronted by the prospect of removing meat from their diet, even for a day or heaven help us a whole week. In celebration of Meat Free Week we sought out a ‘good Aussie bloke’ who has dramatically reduced his meat consumption and doesn’t feel like any less of man because of it.
But first-things-first I want to get something off my chest. Meat Free Week brings up issues for a whole lot of people. Some small-scale, ethical producers criticise us for being ‘anti-farmers’, some vegans and vegetarians criticise us for not going hard enough, and a huge swathe of people in the middle don’t want to address the giant elephant, or maybe cow, in the room.
Like it or not, we need to reduce our meat consumption urgently and globally. We’re not saying you can never eat meat again, that is a choice only you can make. But what we are saying, is that if we all embrace the veg a little more often and select mindful portions of truly free-range meat or sustainably sourced seafood then the environment, animals and our bodies are going to be in far better shape. Let’s not criticise each other for trying to improve, instead let’s band together to embrace a better way of eating.
Don’t look at it as taking something away, instead we’re encouraging you to up your intake of the good stuff. Going Meat Free for just one week will help you to re-set and assess just how much you were/are consuming, whilst hopefully inserting a few new weekly vegetarian meals into your schedule.
In Australia we rank among the top in the world when it comes to meat consumption, a whopping 92kg per person each year, whereas research shows that 95% of us don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables. The time is now, let’s make a change.
+ ENTER CHRIS. HELLO LOVELY CHRIS, THANKS FOR CHATTING TO US.
Chris is a twenty-nine-year-old tradie from Brisbane who describes his upbringing as pretty typical. He was a sports-mad youngster, still is. He grew up on a standard Aussie diet of spag bol, rissoles, steak, lamb and the obligatory three veg.
When he was 17, Chris started a painting apprenticeship to fit in with his gruelling footy schedule, which saw him training for hours on end and losing weekends to games. After suffering a few major injuries, he retired from the sport at 21 and took up CrossFit instead. Chris’ interest in diet was awakened around this time, when he started trying to bulk up.
“I was changing my diet to become bulkier. I was supplementing, eating a lot of protein drinks and larger portions of protein. I was full all the time, I don’t think it was healthy, I don’t think it was good for me, especially carrying around all that extra weight. I was strong, I was fit, but if I wanted to go for a run or a swim I would find that difficult,” explains Chris.
It was largely Chris’ interest in fitness and how food fuels your body that encouraged him to consider a diet with more veg and less meat.
“I became interested because I heard Arnold Schwarzenegger say that it [reducing meat] helped him… I felt good, I felt like I didn’t need meat to be full. You always think when you grow up that meat completes a meal. If you’re not creative enough you think “What can I put beside mashed potato and veg?”, that doesn’t seem like a complete meal,” said Chris.
He enjoyed trying something different and discovering new recipes that embraced the veg. And although sustainability wasn’t his main motivator at first, it has definitely become a motivator in keeping him on track.
“I was watching documentaries, like Food, Inc., about the meat industry, how bad it is on the environment, how animals are treated. Because the world is becoming a more middle-class society, meat has become more affordable and a staple in a lot of people’s diets.
“With an increased demand for meat, being able to produce more meat in the same land area is difficult, things are extreme. You have to feed animals differently to what they’re used to, they can’t be grass fed”, explains Chris.
He decided he didn’t want to contribute to the problems associated with industrialised agriculture anymore.
“I’m interested in lowering my impact, being more conscious, and setting an example that you can live ethically in the modern world. You can make a big impact just by changing a few small things.”
Chris is not completely meat free but looking at where he started compared to where he is today is pretty damn impressive. And that’s what we’re talking about people! Use today as your starting point and set some goals. For some it might be meat-free for one day a week, for others it might be meat-free-Monday-to-Friday and for others it might lead them on a path to veganism. All are great, all are a start. Maybe start with Meat Free Week… It’s never too late to join!
Finally, Chris offered some closing words of wisdom to anyone considering cutting down their meat intake.
“Budget wise it’s great, it’s great for your back pocket.… And knowing how it makes you feel after one day of not eating meat makes it easy to do it more regularly…. It’s not all or nothing. You can treat meat like a treat; get organic, grass fed, Australian free-range. Do your research and support ethical suppliers.
“Start slow, start with substituting a meal you’d normally have meat with. Start with one meal a week and turn it into one day a week. Go from there and see how you feel. It also makes you feel good knowing you’re not contributing to a lot of the environmental and ethical issues that surround the meat industry. Even though there are plenty of farmers who are doing the right thing, it’s hard to support the industry as a whole without having to do a lot of groundwork first.”
Chris makes a good point, if you merely start by choosing to only eat meat from small-scale free-range producers then you’ll be substantially reducing your meat consumption by virtue of this, as the options are more limited, yet way more delicious!”
Thanks for your wonderful insights Chris, and if that’s given you the push you need to join us then now’s your chance!