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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 farming1, 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.
of agricultural land is used up by livestock, providing grazing land and feedcrop.1
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.
To put it another way, producing just one beef steak emits more CO2 than you would by driving for an hour and leaving all the lights on at home.
A classic argument used by vegetarians is to think of the suffering we cause to animals.
With the rise in meat demand accompanied by an ongoing fall in price, animal welfare conditions are worsening. Just listen to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Jonathan Safran Foer, 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).
And 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 responsible for the huge increase in cases of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.
More meat eating means more agricultural land needed. We can’t make land, so we clear it.
The primary cause of tropical deforestation is agriculture.2 Aside from the 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.
You needn’t become a die-hard vegetarian, but going meat-free for a few days isn’t too tough. And on 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 a good vegetarian meal requires some imagination but a good vegetarian dish can be fantastic, 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.
- There are also some brilliant cookbooks that may help you forget about meat altogether! Click on the images below to check them out.
We also recommend a few cookbooks to help make things interesting as you cook up a vegetarian storm. Our friends at Beetroot Books have also been nice enough to give our users a 15% discount on the following titles. Just type the code 'Beet19' when you get to the checkout:
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.
You could even start growing your own, get some great advice from Guardian Life & Style website.
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