In an earlier post (Less Beef, Less Carbon) I made a new-year’s resolution commitment to eliminate red meat from my diet. The production of red meat (i.e., meat from cows and anything else that has hooves) contributes to greenhouse emissions and climate change. So, eliminating my consumption of it, will benefit our world. Since that posting I have discovered there is some disagreement among scientists about the how much “red meat” affects the planet as compared to other things like energy production or transportation. To me these disagreements are not really a “Big Hat, No Cattle” moment but a reminder that science and assumptions that go into studies can be complicated.
But still, eating red meat does have an impact and is a choice I can make for the planet (and perhaps my health) so I decided to eliminate it. How’s that going you might ask? Well so far this year I’ve had beef four times: once at a relative’s house for dinner; once in chili that I made last year that was in the freezer; once at a spring training baseball game; and once when served a complimentary beef taco at a Mexican restaurant. So I’ll grade myself a “C” for beef elimination – not perfect, but I haven’t prepared any beef dishes this year and only once (on impulse) bought a beef hot dog.
Regarding pork, I’ve not done as well. First, I was part of a team that entered a cooking contest in January and our chowder recipe contained bacon and chorizo – as well as crawfish and corn. (Our entry earned us a place among the finalists!) Subsequently I remade this recipe at home for a group. Last month I made some gumbo with quail and chorizo (pork) sausage. And finally, at a BBQ restaurant, I made a last-minute change to my order from “all turkey” to “½ turkey, ½ pork ribs”. While ribs were delicious, and our chowder recipe was successful, I have to give myself a “C-” for pork elimination since all these choices were totally within my control.
In the course of eliminating/reducing red meat, I’ve changed my diet noticeably and almost all of these easy choices have turned out good:
- Instead of pepperoni or sausage pizza – cheese pizza with lots of veggies and Italian seasoning;
- Instead of hamburgers – crab cake and salmon burgers;
- Instead of my regular beef chili – turkey chili. (I haven’t made a no-meat chili yet but plan to);
- Turkey – in lieu of ham / salami / roast beef sandwiches.
Also, my diet has included a much wider variety of salads (including kale) and black bean and tuna toppings; many more no-meat soups; veggie omelets; lots of fish dishes; and no-meat pasta dishes. The only non-meat meal that wasn’t so good was a black bean burger (which my wife liked a lot). And I confess, I’ve yet to try “turkey loaf” or “beet loaf” in lieu of “meat loaf”.
A wonderful guide I’ve referenced frequently is the Mediterranean Diet. I was introduced to this diet a couple of years ago by my son and I dabbled with it a bit but only to add new things; not to eliminate anything I truly liked. But now, it’s a very useful guide. At its simplest level, it recommends the kinds of foods that people living in Italy or Greece enjoy routinely. The basics:
- Eat: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil.
- Eat in moderation: Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt.
- Eat only rarely: Red meat.
- Don’t eat: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.
With the number of on-line recipe options available, it’s easy to fine new recipes that meet these criteria and have been tested and recommended by others. Bottom line: eliminating red meat hasn’t been a hardship at all (assuming C or C- is still passing) and to the degree it helps sustain our world, so much the better.