Should we ditch meat for vegetarianism?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th September 2014
By Mark Savile   Michael Mosley in Horizon: Should I Eat Meat ? The Big Health Dilemma Deforestation, poisoning soil, draining water supplies, damaging the ozone layer, causing heart attacks and colonic cancer; these are just some of the effects of the meat industry on the environment and our bodies. Last month’s double bill of BBC2’s Horizon attempted to bust the myriad myths behind meat. Dr Mike Mosley in Should We Eat Meat explored the impact of eating meat on the public’s health and the environment, trying to clarify all the conflicting evidence that has created a huge grey area which for decades has perplexed the public who struggle to keep informed of the latest advice. Travelling to the USA to look into ongoing studies, Dr Mosley also undertook a month-long red meat heavy diet eating 130g per day, double the daily average intake amongst Britons. His investigations revealed that eating beef three times a week doubles the chances of fatal heart disease compared to vegetarians. Furthermore, the life expectancy of vegetarians is four to five years longer than that of meat-eaters. As high levels of protein, amino acids, zinc, iron and vitamin B are all found in animal flesh, replacing these is critical if you cut meat out of your diet, and cheese, tofu or vegetarian sausages do not always provide what the body needs. Red meat credit to the BBCWhilst the jury is still out on the precise effects of red meat, it is now widely accepted that processed meats such as bacon, salami, ham and sausages are harmful if consumed regularly. However, eating moderate sized portions of non-processed red meat on an irregular basis offers the body these required nutrients without increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Dr Mosley’s in-depth investigations may have cleared up some uncertainties, especially concerning processed meats, but a number of doubts still remain. Experts seem to have contradictory opinions and offer flimsy and unsatisfactory advice: ‘eat red meat in moderation as part of a varied and balanced diet’. The environmental impact of the meat industry is equally detrimental. The average Briton chomps their way through 80kgs of meat every 12 months. 65 billion animals per year get the chop – 9 per person – a prodigious and unsustainable figure which is predicted to rise dramatically in the future, with populations in Asia and Africa constantly increasing. cow There are many vegetarians who steer clear of meat purely because of the negative environmental impact of raising livestock; a third of the planet’s landmass is used for rearing and providing for animals. Poor management and overgrazing in sub-Saharan Africa has led to irreversible damage and desertification. Whilst in England there is an abundance of green grass for cows’ consumption, in South America the demand for meat has caused the destruction of vast swathes of the rainforest known as the ‘lungs of the planet’ to meet the needs of an ever increasing populace in about Latin America and Europe. Cows and methane might cause amusement and clichés to be bandied about, but the impact of a single cow on global warming is comparable to that of a family car. An individual adult cow can emit up to 500 litres per day of this highly flammable gas which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. To sum up, it is estimated that 14.5% of human greenhouse gas emissions come from the rearing, milking, feeding and eating of animals. Imagine the environmental gain if each person were to half their intake of meat. For a majority of restaurant goers, the contents and provenance of the ingredients on their plate is largely irrelevant. Environmental ignorance is shown by consumers eating vegetables out of season and having a penchant for products that require land, water and feed in vast quantities. Simon RoganA number of chefs are bucking the trend and have been pioneers of environmentally-friendly practices both in and out of the kitchen. Take Simon Rogan, who in recent years has added a 15 acre organic farm to his portfolio of restaurants in Cartmel and encourages the use of foraging. There is a strong emphasis on vegetables on his menus, and he boasts that they can be served to customers less than an hour after harvesting. Or Alex Atala, the only chef ranked on Time's list of 100 most influential people 2013. He founded The ATÁ Institute in 2012 which helps to encourage sustainable farming and cultivation practices in Brazil’s trouble-hit Amazon regions. Chef Simon Rimmer, a presenter of Something for the Weekend and regular guest on Saturday Kitchen, is a strong advocate of all things vegetarian and his restaurant Greens, in the suburbs of Manchester, has been serving vegetarian food since its opening in 1990, putting the foodstuffs that would traditionally accompany meat dishes at the centre of the plate. This is one of the main problems in society, that the principle element in Sunday roasts, Christmas dinners, and Thanksgiving celebrations is the joint of meat. Until this changes, the risk to man and planet will continue to prevail. Yet this has not stopped other chefs trying to catalyse a vegetarian revolution. Eddie Shepherd has made a name for himself from being innovative with technology and vegetarian cooking, proving that there is appetite for such cuisine, and his blog makes this readily available to the general public. Making vegetables more exciting and attractive is certainly one way to coax in meat lovers and get them to leave behind the steak knives.bruno loubet Michael Wignall at The Latymer offers a ten course vegetarian tasting menu and a set menu at lunch and evenings, and he asserts that there is plenty of demand for this £105 option. Similarly, a whole host of high profile cooks are now creating fascinating vegetarian tasting menus, which is not simply an ephemeral gimmick. Bruno Loubet, Steve Drake and Simon Hulstone also form the start of an ever increasing list. How refreshing is it that Noma, twice winner of Restaurant magazine’s Best Restaurant in the World, serves a 20 course meal with little or no meat dishes, and chef René Redzepi has won copious accolades for his work. If ending your relationship with meat sounds premature then consider alternatives such as mussels which cost the environment a paltry 250g of CO2 per kilo but still have all the health benefits that the other meats contain and can be found on most menus. vegetablesArtificially-grown meat is another potential sustainable protein source, although it is a long way off becoming commercial, for production and social reasons. Insects too, but the issue of their unappetising nature for most people does not need explaining. The debate about the health pitfalls and environmental predicament caused by the meat industry will rage for years to come. Whilst it remains an individual’s decision to become a vegetarian, it requires a global push to make eating meat a sustainable practice. If you are thinking about trying vegetarian food or if you are already a veggie and would like to know where to go, then we have offered you 5 veggie restaurants that we think you should visit.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th September 2014

Should we ditch meat for vegetarianism?