I have a dilemma that actually started when my partner and I was buying our first Christmas tree. I have a strong opinion that its not fair to grow a tree for 7-8 years then cut it down for the pleasure of only 3 weeks in a year. My partner, half jokingly and half seriously then posed the question of - “well if you’re that concerned about a tree, then what about meat?” (Disclosure: he loves a fresh cut tree at Christmas and he also loves meat).
Since then, it has really got me thinking and I reckon at least twice a week I have a conversation with someone about eating meat or I get the guilts when I’m at the butchers buying my weekly shop. As much as I would love to just go vegetarian, the dilemma I have is the fact that I just love meat.
Being a dietitian, my nutritional knowledge also backs me up on the importance of including meat in your diet as it provides a multitude of nutrients. These nutrients can be obtained from plant sources, but as I always say to my vegetarian clients “you can’t be a fussy vegetarian” because it takes time and thought into putting together a varied and balanced diet to cover yourself, or supplementation is usually needed as a back up. I know myself that I wouldn’t be a very ‘balanced’ vegetarian. I have also grown up from a meat-eating family and I really enjoy all types of meat - beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish.
To be honest (and probably a tad hypocritical too), I’m OK about eating meat. What I’m not OK about is the surplus amount of meat that is on offer in today’s society.
When I stop and stand in the meat section of the supermarket, or even in front of the butcher’s window, I get struck by the thought of ‘how many animals have been grown and slaughtered to provide this much food?’ Then when you multiply that by the number of supermarkets and butchers within a 5km radius, its even more frightening to think about the amount of produce on a state and national scale.
I read an interesting article titled ‘Great debate: Vegan vs Ethicurean’ in Timeout’s Melbourne magazine a few months ago. The article defines ethicureans as being all about locally grown produce and ethically sourced meat, eggs and dairy. Although not a formal definition, there seems to be an underlying support for this lifestyle choice and there are many cookbooks and restaurants that promote ‘ethicurean’ culture. Reflecting on the many conversations I have had with colleagues and family of late, this sums us up beautifully. We want to eat locally sourced produce (and I mean really local, not just what the label or butcher tells you) that is ethically and environmentally grown in an effort to make our mark on reducing agricultural and climate impact on the planet. It also represents our want to support local businesses and ensure the food is consumed in its best state of quality.
Ultimately, it’s up to us as consumers which can influence what’s put on the shelf; we all know supply equals demand. I’m lucky enough to live and work near the Yarra Valley, one of Melbourne’s food bowls, which has enabled me to source out local knowledge of where and what’s best in the area. I’m still not perfect but I believe it's a small step which can lead to bigger circles of change.
There is also another great campaign that for those like me who still love to eat meat but stand in a bucket of ethical pickles - the Meat-free Mondays campaign encourages everyone to have at least one meat-free day of the week. The campaign started in the UK but now runs globally and it’s aims are to:
If you’re in the same boat as me and concerned about our meat consumption, I encourage you to create a ripple effect by starting a conversation about being an ethicurean (or vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian) and consider changing the way you eat and shop.
** With all medical and health issues, it's imperative to consult your doctor or dietitian for tailored advice regarding your personal situation before commencing any changes. This article is written to inform and like anything, a balanced diet and regular activity is important to maintain health and well being.
The way to Carla's heart is all things food. Follow her thoughts and opinions on the latest food news and myths.