How Much Meat Do You Want to Eat?

There is a delightful little website (yourlogicalfallacyis.com) that presents and explains common logical fallacies. One of them is called “black-or-white” and it occurs when an argument is presented as having only two possible options.This fallacy often comes to mind when I hear discussions about vegetarianism or veganism.

There seem to be two main arguments in favor of eliminating meat from one’s diet. The first takes into account the sentience of the creatures one is eating, with the general sentiment being that if the taking of a life is unnecessary, then it is immoral to do so anyway. The second argument has to do with sustainability. Scientific studies have shown that a vegetarian diet (and more so for vegan) is less taxing on land, water, and fuel resources. While being vegetarian and being vegan are quite different, they are similar in their extremity—no meat whatsoever.

While I support those who live the meat-free lifestyle, I worry when complete indifference and total commitment are the only two options I see presented. There is an entire spectrum of alternatives in between. Here are some options to consider that are less extreme but still eco-conscious.

Eliminate meat from one meal a day.

Are you a meat-for-every-meal kind of person? Do you normally eat bacon for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and a steak for dinner? If so, the vegetarian lifestyle probably makes you scoff and roll your eyes. But what if you dialed it back just one notch?

Why, you may ask, would you even consider doing this? Well, besides the appeals to morality and responsibility already mentioned, keep in mind that protein takes the most energy to digest of all nutrients, and while this makes it a good food for long term satiety, do you really want to be full for six hours if you’re going to eat again in four? If not, consider skipping meat in the morning. If you drink coffee, which temporarily suppresses appetite, you might find that you’re not even that hungry in the mornings anyway.

But if you love breakfast meat, think about cutting meat from your lunch. Why? The afternoon slump, of course. The parasympathetic nervous system, which controls physiological functions associated with rest and relaxation, also controls the digestive system. This is why it is so common to want to take a nap after a big meal. If you’re low on energy in the middle of the day, a high-calorie, protein-heavy lunch will not help. Consequently, lunch is a perfect opportunity to skip the meat. Or heck, why not combine the benefits of both and only eat meat for dinner?

Now You Try:
Breakfast: McDonald’s Egg White Delight & Fruit Maple Oatmeal

Lunch: Amy’s Light & Lean Pasta Bowl & black bean soup

Dinner: Beef stew, baked potato, & mixed veggies

Eliminate red-meat.

The red-meat animals tend to be the biggest animals (pig, cow, buffalo) and therefore require the most resources to grow. Eliminating red meat reduces one’s footprint while still leaving a world of culinary choices (all seafood and all poultry). Furthermore, this option might soothe the consciences of those who feel uneasy eating animals in the same taxonomic class as ourselves.

Now You Try:
Breakfast: Egg omelette & toast

Lunch: Tuna sandwich & a side salad

Dinner: Turkey, mashed potatoes, & green beans

Go “pescatarian.”

Pesce is Italian for fish, so a pescatarian is one whose diet consists only of fish but no other meat.  I myself am primarily a pescatarian, although I have been calling it the “Dolphin Diet.” This is obviously only an option for true seafood lovers and it comes with some problems (mercury becomes an issue) but it is simple to implement while not being monotonous. I hardly set foot in a restaurant where fish is not on the menu and seafoodwatch.org provides a state-by-state guide of sustainable choices and recipes. Benjamin Franklin became a pescatarian after regressing from his vegetarian diet when he noticed that large fish ate smaller fish. His rationale: “…if you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.” Bulletproof logic, if you ask me.

Now You Try:
Breakfast: Pancakes & hashbrowns

Lunch: Bean burrito & rice

Dinner: Salmon fillet, asparagus spears, & scalloped potatoes

Substitute smaller animals when you can.

Instead of the steak, choose the chicken. Instead of the chicken, choose the fish. The smaller the animal, the better.

Now You Try: Red Robin’s Whiskey River BBQ Burger with a chicken patty is not only healthier but tastes just as scrumptious as the half-pound of beef option.

Try meat substitutes occasionally.

I like the concept of hamburgers, but I am not too picky on the “meat” in the middle: beef, chicken, pork, fish…they’re all good. So I find that even when I order a veggie burger, I still very much enjoy it. Vegetarian options are available to non-vegetarians! These dishes tend to be lighter and extra tasty too, and can be a really good choice if you don’t want to feel too full.

Now You Try: Burger King’s Veggie Burger has been a staple since 2005 and tastes great.

There are meat-lovers and meat-shunners and they both have a place in society. But don’t let extremism in either direction obscure the wealth of options in the middle. All steps towards a more sustainable future are steps in the right direction.