I have been an official part time carnivore for a couple months now – an experience I didn’t think was going to have as much affect on my diet as I originally imagined. As of writing this post, I share St Andrews with 39 other part time carnivores (three of them being my flatmates) and I can proudly say that I have stuck to my own personal pledge since joining in November. I know a ‘pledge’ may sound a little fanatic, but the effects have been measurable: I find myself now making much healthier choices that are meat free and only eating meat when it looks really really good or on ‘special’ occasions. This means I have cut down on eating meat from 4-5 times a week to once or twice.
To be fair I think I may have been fated to like this scheme ever since I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food a few years ago. Pollan’s tagline throughout the book is: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” – a tenet that I believe works well. It simply isn’t natural to eat such a high proportion of animal protein as part of our diets. In the past, meat was a treat – something to be had occasionally and a food item that was incredibly expensive. With the industrialization of the food production system and the appalling standards of living for commercially reared livestock it it’s probably a good idea to avoid too much meat anyway – but more importantly it is beneficial to balance your diet with lots of veg, fruit, grains, etc. This essentially means becoming a ‘part time carnivore’, a decision I am sure you will not regret in the long-run.
While I was a bit dubious of the monikers assigned to each pledge option – do I ‘meat out’ or ‘meat on/meat off’? – I think their message is in the right place. We can eat meat without feeling bad about it: both terms of environmental impact and personal health. One thing I found really interesting about the scheme was that, as a student, I found my former diet quite in line with the part time carnivore ideal – although I now realize this was less of a conscious choice and more a consequence of a small budget combined with an inability to cook most meats. Still, I think that the part time carnivore scheme is valuable in that it makes you think about these choices rather than those dietary decisions happening by chance. In that sense, it enables the ‘pledgee’ to take control of their food choices in a health and impact context rather than the normal tastes or preferences that we usually use to choose our food. I think these extra dimensions to choosing what to eat are important given the society we live in: with obesity rates climbing, climate change affecting the world and the increasing influence of multi-national food producers we need to be aware of what these extra factors mean for our diet.
If you get a chance, do make your way over to St Andrews’ own Part Time Carnivore page – http://st-andrews.parttimecarnivore.org – where you can see the different options and sign up for the scheme. Also check out this great TED talk given by New York Times food editor Mark Bittman about the way we eat and how it affects the environment and our health: