I try to eat healthily. I try, where I can, to eat ethically and responsibly. I no longer eat fish unless it is certified as sustainable and hasn’t been caught by any invasive method such as trawling. I buy as many fresh, unpackaged fruits and vegetables as I can (as much as the supermarkets keep trying to thwart me in my efforts by removing the unpackaged ones.) I make as much as I can myself and I never eat pre-packaged ready meals (not even pizza!) I always eat as fresh as I can. But my main trouble at the moment is meat. Now I don’t eat meat everyday, that would be seriously unethical. If I were to eat meat everyday how many animals would have to die just to sustain me? Probably a full seven and maybe even more if the cheese I happen to have bought that week was made with animal rennet. That is too many dead animals for my benefit. So I limit my meat intake to around two full cuts a week (one if it is one of those rare weeks I have fish) and I also keep a packet of Parma Ham in the fridge for when I feel a meal needs a bit more protein (It is one of the few processed foods I allow myself and, I hope, all the slices are at least all cut from the same animal.) So that is, probably (I hope), a minimum of three animals perishing per week for my benefit. If I could get hold of sustainable fish more often (and that may soon be a possibility) I can drop that down to two animals and one fish, which would be a whole lot better. And if I have chicken (which I have recently stopped eating due to the fact that it was making me ill) I’ll always make sure it is free range (all my eggs are free range too!) But really, I think, I could be a lot more responsible as regards to my carnivorous behaviour. Maybe we all could.
The problem I face with eating meat in a more responsible manner is largely due the variety of meats on offer. All of the meats available, generally, come from four animals: Cows, Chickens, Pigs and Sheep. You may find Duck or Venison occasionally but they are, usually, very expensive. There are plenty of edible animals in the world but unless I want to pay through the nose and buy them online, I can’t get hold of those meats. And quite often the cuts of meat, especially in the supermarkets, are limited too. The cheaper cuts like the snout or the neck or the scrag end are incredibly rare, at least in my part of the world. Most of the cuts on offer (apart from chicken, in which almost all of it is often available, with the exception of the head) are the fillets or the shanks; the nicer looking cuts for want of a better word. Of these I would say that the availability of beef cuts is the worst with the plate, flank and shank cuts being virtually non existent in a food capacity.
Now some people, at this point, will be shouting at their screens and wondering why any of this matters. You’ll be wondering why can’t you go on eating your seven sirloin steaks a week? Well nobody is stopping you… But I will say this. Current meat consumption is not fair on the animals. Large sections of their carcasses are just discarded because the only cuts available what I described in the paragraph above as ‘the nicer looking cuts.’ They’re being killed for what amounts to nothing more than their backs. This is extremely wasteful and in a world where poverty and hunger (even here in the UK) are on the increase we can’t afford to be discarding perfectly edible food in this way. All that is wasted from just one animal could feed perhaps ten, twenty or maybe even thirty people. Secondly, addressing the amount of meat that is eaten, I go back to the number of animals that have to die to supply that food. Seven sirloin steaks means seven cows. That’s 364 cows a year and 365 in a leap year. Another example, McDonald’s slaughters 67000 cows PER DAY just to make their beef burgers- And at 24455000 per year, that figures at a number somewhere just above the population of Australia (and below North Korea). That is a scary amount of cows and to transport and process and provide them all requires a lot of resources and puts an enormous strain on the environment. Cutting down on the amount of meat we eat means, inevitably, fewer resources need to be used up and fewer animals have to die in order to supply our food. And by eating a greater variety of cuts (between the whole population) it means we can cut that down even further, and even further still by eating meat from an increased variety of animals. In the long term this will benefit the environment enormously and that, I am sure you will agree, is a benefit well worth snatching up.
If we, as a population, want to continue eating meat then we need to be more responsible about it. Not only do we need to be eating the whole of the animal and more of the cheaper cuts like neck and plate and flank (and yes, for those asking, that does include the offal) but we also need to be eating a greater variety of meats too. We need to stop relying on the four main animals we currently rely on for meat and diversify. I have a glut of fat pigeons in my local area and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Pigeons breed at a phenomenal rate (six times a year, apparently) so would it really be so hard for someone to come along, catch them, breed a few and kill the rest for food? And what of the grey squirrel? I know a few people have already suggested this but if we all started eating grey squirrel we’d not only be diversifying our meat variety, we’d also be doing our native reds a huge favour. We could eat horse (most of us, unknowingly, have had it already so what does it matter?) or what about donkey? Rabbit used to be a popular one but now it is virtually unheard of as a food amongst the masses. We could eat Frog or Toad. Heck… Let’s munch through the entire cast of Wind in the Willows and go after Badger whilst we’re at it as well. Instead of culling them (as has been suggested and tried) why don’t we eat them?
A lot of people would probably seem squeamish about some of those ideas. There are certainly a lot of people who would balk at eating offal for instance. But if we all want to continue eating meat then it has to be done ethically and responsibly, for the good of the animals and the environment. That means we must diversify our range and overcome the general squeamishness surrounding things such as offal, badger and donkey. There are no two ways about it. If we want to protect the environment this has to be done. At the moment (given what I say above about variety) this is difficult but I think where possible we all need to at least try and be more responsible carnivores.