Meat Twice a Week

(Please note, because of the time that has passed since I wrote this article, it may no longer reflect my current views or the most accurate and complete information available on this subject.)

Sesame BurgerTwo years ago about this time I blogged about my resolution to give up soft drinks, which I'm glad to say I've successfully continued for a second bonus year, despite it having no noticeable positive effect on my health while making me an outcast at all of those cola-centered social gatherings. And despite the bottles of Dr. Pepper that people sometimes leave sitting around me, sometimes even in my own fridge.  But I digress.

For now I'll skip over last year's resolution - which failed miserably - and bring you to my 2009 resolution, which is to eat less meat. Specifically, I'm trying to eat meat at no more than two meals per week. This is a revised plan of attack from past attempts to try an all-vegetarian diet, which I eventually decided wasn't tenable for me.

Without getting too far into the food ethics involved in meat-eating (which are nonetheless important and deserving of further treatment), I thought I'd note why I'm doing this, and how it's going so far:

I'm eating less meat because:

  1. There are myriad statistics and resources showing that eating less factory-farmed meat is a good thing for my body, and for reducing the harm I cause to the planet and the life on it. Since most of the meat I have convenient access to is factory-farmed, I should eat less of it until I can change that reality.
  2. I don't want to give up all meat. I don't want to practice "kingdomism," and I recognize that having some meat as a part of my diet is important to me for a variety of reasons. I also didn't want to take an approach that puts friends and family in an uncomfortable position when they're cooking for me, or that precludes me from eating meat that was brought to the table in an ethical, humane way. (I fully realize that there are plenty who say there is no way to humanely eat the meat of other beings, or that the discomfort of the cook is far outweighed by the discomfort of the animal being eaten.)

How's it going after a month? Well, mostly so far so good, but definitely with some complexities:

  • Handling leftovers remains an interesting point of debate. If I eat at a restaurant and have meat at a meal there, and end up having leftovers, does it "count" as one of my two meals to eat those leftovers the next day? I think it's mostly about intent - if I make a batch of meat-filled lasagna that lasts me all week, that's definitely a major violation, but if I happen to have some leftovers, it seems within the spirit of the resolution to give myself some leeway, right?
  • Despite eating almost no meat at home, I'm still not conditioned to hone in on the meatless dishes in some settings. I was at a catered event last week where I got a bowl of soup that looked vegetarian, and only found after I was eating it that it had meat in it...should've asked. At a Chinese buffet I found myself mindlessly putting a dish with meat in it on my plate as I'd done in the past, even though I'd fully intended to not eat meat there. So there's definitely some mental adjusting still to be done, all worthwhile I'm sure.
  • Vegetarians everywhere will roll their eyes at how obvious this is, but of course the whole experience is reminding me how hard it is to go against any given cultural norm when you're in the minority, e.g. trying to avoid meat in a town that has more steakhouses than grocery stores, and where saying you're vegetarian still prompts the question, "but you eat chicken, right?"

To be clear, I'm not at all prescribing vegetarianism or any particular diet as the right or wrong thing for anyone else, I'm just talking about what's right for me.

As Jim C. noted two years ago, I have to be careful of "quitter's righteousness" here, and not let a month of relative success go to my head. That's partly why I'm blogging about it - if you dine with me or see me on the street, feel free to ask "how's that meat twice a week thing going?"  I will hopefully give you the thumbs up sign, but I also might pretend I didn't hear you and avoid eye contact.

If anything, this resolution is helping me to balance an increased attentiveness to what I eat (and the health/environment/social implications of that) with a desire to remain a little more flexible than quitting cold-tofurkey, and to try a personal change of habit that's not so dramatic I can't sustain it.

I'll keep you posted.

7 thoughts on “Meat Twice a Week

  1. I'm an excellent quitter! Always accumulating experience...

    ----

    Props out to you, level and open.

    For me, if I'd set such a goal...(!)

    I'd be playing the work-arounds: alternatives, increments and justifications - like finding local surplus game, or ethically raised, or fair trade (from co-ops, farmer's or commercial markets), kiy (kill it yourself) gyo (grow your own) networks/movements, and such...

    -Jim

  2. I'm all about this kind of experimentation - it's probably good for you, and it certainly makes you more sensitive to people around you. I gave up meat completely after being exposed to a PETA factory-farm video. I watched less than half of it. The next day I went from four hamburger patties a day to no meat at all. I had a number of very disappointing meals before I adjusted.
    I identify with the chinese food thing. My two accidental intakes of meat occurred 1)at a Chinese restaurant in another country when, after a year of vegetarianism, I just forgot, and 2) when my family had take-out and I popped a sweet and sour pork thing in my mouth without even thinking.
    Since the early days I have moderated my no-meat extremes, and now eat hunted meat and meat that I know exactly where it came from, both in strict moderation (cause I'm a happy veggie). I'm with Jim on that one, cause for me it is all about having full respect for the life that is sustaining me, meat or veggies.
    Plus, since I've been learning a lot more about diet I have discovered that getting enough protein is a simple thing for a vegetarian when eating whole foods. So I eat meat sometimes because I like it, not because I have to have it.

  3. one word:

    http://www.bbqaddicts.com/bacon-explosion.html

    Yes, I know that this is an obvious response using the popular bacon link of the month. But I could not resist adding some balance (spelled p o r k) to this post.

    I guess my real question is, if you had better access to sustainably raised, locally harvested, non factory farm meat, would you go back to a regular consumption rate? Or will this become something that you will feel obliged to use as a measure of your self-control and green footprint? Wouldn't there be a better cascading effect in finding and promoting one of those sources? Sorry for devil's advocating, but I do enjoy these meat discussions.

    I have often said, "I am going to quit eating factory farmed meat" but the same access/cost issues that you mention have prevented me from doing it. I do have a deep freeze now, so maybe a side of local organic beef, pork, and a deer from the farm would set me up for a year's test... May just give it some thought....

  4. You can do it Chris!

    The best Chinese place for veg*n's in town is the one next to Hacienda on the East side. I can't think of the name, but they always have tofu & veggies on the buffet. All of the places in town are happy to sub tofu in any of their meat dishes too if you order off the menu. The one next to IUE is really nice about it and they make a mean General Tso's Tofu...

    None of the chain restaurants have much in terms of meatless selections except Chilis (I actually really like their black bean burgers -- with lots of jalapenos piled on top). But most of the local places have one or two things.

    Eating meat-less is this area can be challenging, but fear not! There are lots of helpful people out there who can offer you support and advice. Also, your blood pressure and cholesterol will thank you! And just think, for every pound of meat you don't eat, you can feel guiltless about driving your SUV 40 whole miles!

    Good luck!

  5. Hey Damon,
    I think that if I had unlimited access to respectfully raised and killed meat I would not go back to my previous habits. There are two reasons, one theoretical and the other quite real.
    The first is that I no longer feel as dependent on meat. I used to feel like a meal was not filling without pieces of meat in at least one dish, and I don't feel that way anymore.
    The second is that my wife doesn't like meat much at all. She stopped eating it in high school because it wasn't palatable to her. In that way it would make meal prep more complicated.
    It's a helpful question to face. It isn't a measure of self-control or self-deprivation for me, just lifestyle. And now that I am in the farming line of work I see much more clearly sense in the argument that raising animals for food is a less efficient use of resources than raising vegetation, if food is the desire.
    So I'm content with the occasional hamburger at a trusted table.

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