Meaty matters

ImageLadies and Gentleman, please step away from the tongs and novelty aprons, the barbeque season is now officially closed. We’ve had a fabulous BBQ summer, but it has been virtually impossible to accept a social invite without encountering chargrilled sausages and cremated burgers.

Now is a great time to reduce your meat intake before rich winter foods are on the menu. Thanks to the McCartneys, the trendy way to do this is with Meat Free Mondays.

A meat free day is nothing new. Historically, it was often followed for religious reasons, such as a Friday fast, or because of rationing in times of shortages. Today, the aims are different; to improve human health and the environment.

So how would going veggie for one day a week help you and the planet? UN’s top climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri explains that, “People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming.” Indeed, UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.

As is so often the case, what is good for the environment is often beneficial for us too. Many of the world’s leading health organisations now encourage a reduction in the amount of meat people consume. It could help you avoid cancer, heart disease or a stroke. According to a study carried out by Oxford University, if we ate red meat no more than three times a week it would save the NHS £1.2 billion each year.

Meat Free Mondays have other benefits too. You are likely to reduce your weekly food bill, lose weight and escape a food rut with the discovery of yummy new recipes.

However, I wonder if Meat Free Mondays aren’t a bit like smoking heavily most of the week but saying ‘its ok I never light up on a Tuesday’? Surely if it is so important we should commit to quit our carnivorous habit 24/7?

Not in my book. I was a vegetarian for many years, but now I’m not. This is largely for moral reasons (although my Mum’s Sunday Roast lured me back too!). It is because I am a passionate advocate for British farmers and want to support the best of them by spending my money on ethically produced meat. I also know that livestock is important to our countryside and can even help maintain habitats for rare wildlife – a landscape without sheep and cows would be an empty place indeed.

Meat Free Mondays is a similar concept to the wildly popular 5:2 diet (two days of fasting, five of eating normally). Having a set time when you eat more mindfully can impact your habits across the whole week, without the normal fatigue and failure that sets in with more radical regimes. How many wannabe vegetarians have lapsed on week two, when the smell of a bacon butty cuts through the fog of a hangover and becomes absolutely essential?

In my family, we’ll be embracing several meat free days a week. But even better, what about Seasonal Sundays – a day where everything you eat is seasonal and locally sourced? So long as no one suggests Cake Free Wednesdays, I’ll be there.

First published in the EDP and EADT on 20th September 2013

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