Veggie Trials update

13_08_08Time for a brief update on the vegetarian trial I’m pleased to say I’m really enjoying. Yes I’m still “cheating.” I am meat free every breakfast and lunch and averaging 4 evening meals a week without meat or fish.

I have certainly tried dishes and ingredients I haven’t before.  We’re enjoying a lot more fish than before which I know sounds daft but we never ate it at home before and trying sustainably sourced fish is proving tasty and comparatively cheaper.  We’re having a lot more vegetables in our main courses, rather than having stodgy mince dishes which were pretty much our go-to dinner. I’ve occasionally experimented at home, for dinner parties at the like but usually my meals were pretty boring on the grand scheme of things. And I’m sure readers might think me odd if I extol the fact I’m now cooking with loads more pulses, beans, cheeses, vegetables and spices.

Over the last couple of years, I helped set up a foodbank in my town and I became hyper aware of the price of food. I’ve been a wannabe environmentalist for as long as I can remember. As a Christian I believe I’m a co-creator on this planet and tasked with a divine responsibility to look after it, all of it. Tying all of these things together in a coherent behaviour is proving a challenge. I want to make informed choices about my food, and now, the food for my husband too who is a confirmed carnivore.

So I’ve read a couple of books and read numerous blogs on the subject of vegetarianism and I’m still exploring more. I must recommend Jay Rayner’s book: A greedy man in a hungry world: why almost everything you thought you knew about food is wrong.  He talks about sustainable intensification as a process we must explore to ensure food demand is met as effectively as possible for everyone at every stage in the chain. The following quote and the chapters around it, hit me hard:

According to the United Nations, by 2030 we will need to be producing 50% more food and a system built around the trinity of local, seasonal and organic simply won’t cut it.

I am probably more confused than ever about the supposed benefits of vegetarianism, localism, sustainability and the ethics surrounding food. Meat free doesn’t necessarily mean low environmental impact.  High food mileage doesn’t mean high carbon emissions.  What I do in the home counties of England does, and doesn’t have an impact on the food availability in third world countries. Local doesn’t mean sustainable or efficient.

Everything is just a little bit more complicated than I anticipated. But complexity isn’t a vice. I do know I feel like I am coming down on the side of continuing with a vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian lifestyle because of environmental and health reasons, rather than any specific animal welfare issues, though I have a lot more investigation to do in that area.

So I am continuing, and will probably go entirely meat free for a couple of months in the autumn with the aim of seeing how my health holds up.  If you have any book recommendations or thoughts I’d love to hear them. I’m also tweeting about this with #VeggieTrials.

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