The recent horsemeat scandal is making many people unsettled about what’s going into our meat, but most people still choose to eat meat. To be honest, it’s convenient, easy to cook and darn tasty! But perhaps vegetarians are on the right track. There are definitely many reasons for eating less meat, concerning our health, animal welfare and the environment.
REASONS TO REDUCE MEAT CONSUMPTION
We don’t always know what’s in it
Ok, there’s no getting away from the current fact that if we buy ready meals we can’t always trust what’s on the label. Up to 100% horsemeat has been found in Findus pancakes, and products from several other retailers are also found to have traces of horsemeat in. The concern for most people isn’t so much about actually eating horsemeat - apparently it’s tasty and healthier than beef - it’s simply that it wasn’t listed as an ingredient. We can’t trust what’s on the label! Besides unknowns put into processed meat products, there are also concerns about antibiotics, the chemicals used in processing, and parasites which have been found in meat.
The solution? Eat only high welfare meat or meat which looks like what it’s meant to be e.g. joints, pork chops and whole chickens. Remember, cheaper cuts of meat like braising steak can also be an excellent way to get decent protein. Buy from local suppliers who can tell you exactly where the meat came from. If you buy grass-fed beef and lamb it also contains more nutrients and is better for the environment.
Increased risk of diseases
The health risks of eating red meat such as beef, lamb and pork are now clear. Several studies over the last few years have clearly linked consumption of red meat, particularly processed meats like sausages, bacon and hot dogs, to increased risks of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and arthritis.
One study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed 100,000 people for 28 years and concluded that two slices of bacon each day increases the risk of heart disease by 20%. The Department of Health now recommends that people eat no more than 70g of red meat a day in order to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
The solution? Eat healthier protein alternatives such as chicken, fish, legumes and nuts. If you really miss red meat, choose unprocessed and leaner cuts like steak. Grill, roast or stir-fry your meat and try not to eat charred meat which releases carcinogenic compounds.
Our everyday food choices not only affect us, they also affect the world we live in. Eating red meat is not a sustainable source of food, mainly due to the large importing of animal feed, and eating less, even just one meat-free day a week, will help combat the effect of climate change, according to a United Nations expert. A spokesperson for Compassion in World Farming said the ideal approach is to reduce unsustainable and inhumane factory farming of animals, and instead eat mainly organic and free-range, which produces less harmful greenhouse emissions.
REASONS TO EAT MEAT
Don’t give up your red meat right now – there actually are benefits!
Red meat has nutrients that white meat simply can’t compete with. It is a great source of protein, zinc, thiamine and riboflavin, plus it is the best source of the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. It also contains very high amounts of iron, with lean red meat such as steak being one of the best sources of iron.
The high iron levels are one reason why red meat is sometimes recommended to treat certain conditions. Pregnant women particularly benefit from iron-rich foods, and anaemia sufferers are often advised to increase their iron-levels by eating more red meat.
Eating lean red meat like beef is sometimes recommended to treat depression as it contains the mood-boosting chemical tryptophan. In particular, grass-fed meat is much more nutritious and a little will go a long way to maintaining healthy brain function.
A natural way to eat?
Many people consider that meat-eating is completely natural and beneficial and should form a large part of our diet. Followers of the popular Paleo Diet consume large amounts of red meat, poultry and fish, aiming to follow the natural diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The diet has reportedly helped many people lose weight, lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce sugar and inflammation in the body.
We have to accept that, as consumers, we are all responsible for our food choices and how they impact us, the animals and the rest of the world. The best advice to follow is to eat less meat, choose the leanest cuts of red meat from a supplier who can tell you exactly where the meat came from, choose high welfare meat and avoid processed meats as much as possible. Then, knowing that you are benefitting your health, as well as doing your bit for the bigger world issues, you can completely enjoy eating your red meat.
by Kath Webb
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