Only just over 50 years ago meat was considered a luxury and eaten only a few times a week. But since the end of Second World War meat, often associated as a sign of wealth, has played more of a central role in western diet. Today, some of us eat even more meat than the daily recommended amount.
As our meat consumption skyrocketed, livestock production had to be increased mostly through intensive methods. This comes at the price of animal welfare, with livestock crammed in confined spaces and forced to grow quickly. Intensive animal farming also has a huge impact on the environment through deforestation (to grow more animal feed), land and water degradation and greenhouse gases emissions (rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars).
As the world population increases, we also face a very uncertain future for food security. In simple term, at our current meat consumption, our planet simply does not have enough space and resources to feed the estimated 9 billion population by 2050.
And with red meat consumption recently been linked to increasing risks of cancer and heart disease, it looks as our omnivore diet is in fact not that great for us either.
Changing the way we eat to a more plant-based diet can have a positive impact on our health, animal welfare and the environment. Going vegetarian can be daunting for meat lovers. The good news is that it is not the only alternative.
Let’s explore the options . . .
Flexitarian: this is a semi-vegetarian diet which is becoming increasingly popular for people who still want to eat fish or meat from time to time. Followers of the “Meat Free Monday” campaign belong to this category. The flexitarian diet gives you flexibility and adapts to your lifestyle. When “good” flexitarians eat meat, they tend to favour quality over quantity, buying organic or higher welfare meat and eating less of it.
Vegetarian: a vegetarian has a plant based diet (i.e. no meat or fish). There are some variations within the vegetarian diet around products such as eggs and dairy. An ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. An ovo-vegetarian will eat eggs but no dairy, while a lacto-vegetarian will eat dairy but no eggs.
Vegan: a vegan will not eat any animal product (no meat, fish, eggs or dairy) or by-product (such as honey). Vegans also avoid products such as certain vinegars or sugars as they might have been in contact with animal products during their manufacture. Being a vegan goes beyond diet, extending one’s beliefs to other areas of life. The vegan diet is in itself more restricting that the vegetarian diet but today there are many plant-based substitutes which makes it easier to avoid animal products.
Pescatarian: a pescatarian is a semi-vegetarian who eats animal products such as fish, shellfish, seafood, eggs dairy but not meat.
Pollotarian: a pollotarian is also a semi-vegetarian diet which excludes red meat but pretty much everything else.
If you are ready to embrace a new lifestyle both the Vegetarian Society and Vegan Society have a host of information to help.
Have you gone flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan etc…? Share your experience with us in the comments box below.