As of yesterday evening, I’m now 90% vegetarian.
Nits and grits: what does that mean? In any given week, I’ll eat meat at most twice. (2 out of 21 meals, just under 10%). By “meat” I mean red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, and any other animal. As anyone should… “I’m vegetarian but I eat fish” is a cop-out. (I’m also counting chicken/beef/fish stock, gelatin, anything else that is actually animal parts as being meat. I’m being kind of picky, but not super-picky: if meat is an ingredient, it counts as meat, but if there are just rumors that it may or may not contain a trace of an animal byproduct (see: isinglass in Guinness) then I’m not going to worry about it.)
Why? Mostly the environment, but also health. I’ll address “health” first, because it’s shorter. Vegetables are more healthy than meat. Citation needed, right? I’ll go with Mark Bittman first, particularly “1. Forget the protein thing.” Most people would agree that vegetables are healthy, but they’re still worried about vegetarians because “they’re not getting enough protein.” Who tells you that you need so much protein? The US FDA? I’d argue that they’re not impartial, due to the huge meat lobby. If you want as much protein as a meat eater, you can get it from soy, beans, nuts, wheat gluten, and other high-protein foods. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.
If you have other nutritional issues with a vegetarian diet, then we disagree on something more fundamental, and we should hash that out first. Otherwise, I’ll say “a diet consisting mostly of whole fruits, vegetables, and grains is the healthiest diet possible” and move on.
Okay, the environment. Blatz blatz blatz further reading. Going vegetarian will solve the food crisis (ps. the world is in one now, we just haven’t noticed because Giant Eagle still has plenty of food), the environment, and maybe our oil dependencies all in one. If everyone went vegetarian, that would help the environment more than everyone quitting driving.
Why 90%? Because I want to get across the point that you don’t have to go fully vegetarian (and you don’t have to be a hippie, if that’s not your thing) in order to help! I think (although I don’t know) that eating two meals of meat per week is sustainable, while eating seven or fourteen is not. And this way I can still eat some meats that I really enjoy, like fish sushi.
Why set a lower limit? I guess I’ve been a “flexitarian” for years. But this way I can actually document that I’m doing something measurably good. It will convince me to eat a little less than I used to. And it gives me something to talk about.
Finally, I’d like to say this: you can do it too. Two years ago, I thought it’d be nuts to be vegetarian for a month, until I tried it and found it pretty easy. It’s a pretty low-sacrifice way to help the world a lot. If you’d like to join me in 90% (or 100%, or 80%, or whatever you like) vegetarianism, I’d be thrilled.
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