Taking a long hard look at what you eat and wondering how to make improvements is a classic January pastime. And one thing you can be assured of? You’re most certainly not alone.
For many, it’s Veganuary that becomes the focus of the month. As proud farmers and butchers that enjoy nothing more than tucking into a rare steak, what we do we think about that? Well, we actually think it’s a really positive thing that people are reviewing what they eat, where it comes from, and are taking responsibility for the impact their diet choices have on their health and our environment.
But it’s always seemed a little odd to us that Veganuary runs during a month with a distinctly limited range of seasonal produce available - known as the ‘hunger gap’. It can make switching away from animal-based products to sustainable alternatives rather tricky, and instead can often mean that the replacements are highly processed meat-substitutes or exotic vegetables with high food miles, which rather defeats the object.
It’s about balance
Despite the hype of such campaigns as Veganuary, and the vast array of products now available in supermarkets and on menus, veganism as an overall dietary option is declining. Flexitarianism on the other hand is on the rise, with 27% of the population now claiming to follow this approach.
We’ve never been fans of any extreme approach to diets, instead believing in a balanced approach year-round - enjoying everything in moderation and making sustainable decisions on what we eat. Reducing overall intake of meat and dairy, rather than excluding them entirely, and putting increased scrutiny on the provenance and production of those items, is something we can comfortably get behind.
For a start, you certainly don’t need to eat meat every day. As a nation, the amount of meat we eat has steadily increased, and for many, has moved from what was seen as luxury to an everyday staple. Britons consume twice as much protein as we need, and this has fuelled the rise of industrial farming to meet such demand. Such intensive systems compromise animal welfare and can have detrimental effects on the environment. But they will remain in place for as long as the demand for cheap meat does, which is why it’s so important to be mindful of the decisions being made with your wallet. For a truly balanced diet, some meals might use meat, but others can be focussed around sustainable fish, organic pulses and seasonal vegetables.
Why less can be so much more
Buying less meat means that you can choose to spend a little more, allowing you to instead focus on better quality meat, that has been sustainably sourced. Buying meat from a farmer you know supports local rural economies and reduces food miles. Buying grass-fed meat can help sequester carbon and is also higher in good fats omega 3 and 6 than grain-fed comparatives. Buying organic meat means that the animals have been reared at the speed nature intended, on totally chemical-free diets, and farmed in a system that boosts biodiversity, improving soil health along the way. Not only that, but there is huge reward to be had in terms of the flavour found in meat from slow-grown and well cared for animals.
We’d also encourage a focus on nose-to-tail eating. Animals reared for meat have sacrificed their lives in the name of food, so we think we think it’s only fair we respect that and use everything we can from each carcass. Not only can this be a thrifty way of getting meat into your diet, but there is also valuable nutrition to be derived from lesser cuts such as offal. And in the hands of a good cook, some less popular cuts are no less delicious.
Meal-planning is a useful tactic that can help you to consume meat with minimal waste. Enjoy a roast chicken on a Sunday but then make the most of it in the days that follow - using the flavoursome brown meat for risotto and the carcass for a nutritious broth.
Making small changes
As we said, we support anything that encourages people to re-evaluate their decisions when it comes to the food they buy and enjoy. We have the ability to vote with our plates three times a day and just a small number of changes in a week can collectively make a big impact. But being informed on those changes is just as important – we’d encourage you to ask questions and do your research as simply switching to plant-based is not the straightforward solution.