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Help the Environment by Eating Less Meat

Smarter Eats: Give Yourself a Meat Budget

Whatever your reason, eating no less meat is a good thing. Beef recalls, environmental woes, and ethical concerns are enough to turn even the most Neanderthal-esque carnivore into a sprout-lovin' vegan. But for those of us that can't resist the lure of a juicy burger, luscious pork belly, or the satisfying saltiness of bacon, it's becoming harder to reconcile what we want with what's best.

Barring becoming a vegetarian, one way to handle the whole being-a-responsible-meat-eater thing is to give yourself a weekly meat budget. Years ago I read an eye-opening piece by cookbook author Mark Bittman about the dramatic effects that cutting down on our grain-fed meat consumption can have. (Even for those who stick to organic, grass-fed beef when cooking at home, it's much more difficult to adhere to this policy when dining out.)

Find out why cutting back on meat is better for the environment,


"If Americans were to reduce meat consumption by 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius."

That kind of environmental impact is a huge deal. Beyond the environment, cutting back on meat is good for your health too. Something I was reminded of after reading a Huffington Post article5 Ways You Can Eat Ethically and Still Have Bacon — from a former colleague. Some of his suggestions are using meat as seasoning or becoming a part-time vegetarian. Btitman's suggestion is to reduce our meat consumption to under a pound a week, essentially becoming flexitarians.

I don't eat a lot of meat to begin with, but I'm taking on the challenge of a weekly meat budget. As suggested in the HuffPo piece, I'll sparse my meat portion over the course of an entire week rather than give myself one big meal to relish. I'll throw some small pieces of pancetta into a pasta or veggie dish, turn my meat serving into more of a side dish, and go full-blown vegetarian for some meals. I'm also going to try my best to always eat meat that comes from small farms. Given that I am eating way less of it, I should be able to afford the best of the best. How about you — are you up for the challenge?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 7 years
We have started buying only locally-raised grass-fed beef because it's comparable to or cheaper than the commercial cornfed variety. We get ours from my husband's boss, who raises a few steers every year. Since he mostly does it as a hobby, he's not concerned about how fast the steers put on weight and lets them eat grass their whole lives. I personally don't eat beef, but my husband enjoys it. We buy it less often now, but my husband claims he'd rather have a good small steak over a huge bland OK steak any day.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
darc5204, read The China Study (or at least google it). It's based on the most comprehensive nutritional study ever conducted by doctors and scientists from Cornell University and Oxford University (i.e. two of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world). Everything cited in the book comes from studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The author of the book, who was one of the directors of the China Study, actually set out in the 60's to prove that meat and dairy were most nutritional foods one could eat, so it did not start as any sort of biased vegetarian study. The conclusion after decades of research is that virtually all Western diseases (heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease such as MS) are directly correlated to the amount of animal protein one consumes. Also, Harvard University concluded in a 1990 study (unrelated to the China Project) that the ideal amount of red meat in a person's diet is zero. I'm not saying this to sound preachy or in judgment of people who eat animal products (I myself still have some slip-ups with dairy), I'm just repeating the scientific evidence that is out there.
darc5204 darc5204 7 years
@chloe bella, I agree with most of what you say, but it's an unscientific overstatement when you say "weight of the scientific evidence out there establishes that the ideal diet involves no red meat and little to no poultry and fish." We know that Americans eat too much red meat and saturated fat. However, there is no "weighty" evidence that moderate amounts of lean meat is unhealthy. Further, it seems that fish is a very healthy part of the diet except for pollutants, which is a product of poor environmental handling as opposed to intrinsic nutritional value.
sexylibrarian sexylibrarian 7 years
This post is so timely for me. I finally saw Food Inc. this weekend and my fiancee and I have decided to slowly start eating less meat. We have started having meat free Monday's. I also plan on buying grass fed meat from now on. It will cost more in the short term but in the long rang it is better for us and the environment.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I'd say the easiest way to cut down on your meat consumption is to halve the serving sizes. Half a steak is still delicious, filling and satisfying. I've also found that if you pad out a meat sauce with veggies you can easily halve the amount of mince going in. If you worry about your waist and the environment, and live in Australia. Eat Kangaroo. :) It's locally farmed (cutting down on the carbon footprint) and has heaps less fat than beef. It's delicious barbecued as well.
johninsingapore johninsingapore 7 years
Sorry everyone please forgive my double post. Please.
johninsingapore johninsingapore 7 years
Oh dear I lost my post here. Now let me try once again. I was trying to suggest that replacing one or more meals each week with fish is a wonderful alternative. You will get smarter and improve your complexion too - that has to be good yes?! I've gone from being a confirmed meataholic to a meat and fishaholic - with at least 3 meals a week including fish. My skin glows, and I know more already!
johninsingapore johninsingapore 7 years
So many posts already...just thought I would add that eating more fish is a wonderful alternate to meat, so replace one or more meat meals with fish and get hooked on fish. You will get smarter too and improve your complexion.
EastVillageAmy EastVillageAmy 7 years
Thanks for this post! After seeing Fast Food Nation and Food Inc, I decided to make it my new year's resolution to only eat animals that got to live like animals - meaning they got to eat the food they were meant to eat, and they were able to roam around, and not get pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. After learning of the health benefits of grass fed beef, it's insane to me that people ever started feeding them all this other crap, it's bad for the animals and the humans consuming them. So I only buy the grass fed, free range, non chemical cows and chickens, and when I go out if I can't source the meat I go vegetarian. Btw, grass fed skim milk is so rich and creamy I had to double check the carton to make sure I had actually gotten skim! I ran across a book that might be helpful for fellow NYers, Clean Plates NYC, it's like a Zagat guide that checked not only for taste but ethics as well. It's pretty handy and offers access to the website that constantly updates with new places. As for the vegans and vegetarians out there, you guys are awesome. I wish I could do it, but I'm a Texas gal that loves BBQ so I'm just doing what I know I can live with.
elle-dub elle-dub 7 years
Anon, such a strong response makes me feel as though you must feel some insecurity about your current diet. As chloe bella states, Fit is not a vegetarian, nor do I think she shoves any agenda down anyone's throat...Well, I suppose aside from fitness and overall health which should be expected...
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
@ Anon, this blog isn't just about exercise, it's also about diet, as evidenced by the numerous postings on recipes, diet,and food choices. Fit is not a vegetarian, and she has never "bashed" meat-eaters. The fact of the matter is that the weight of the scientific evidence out there establishes that the ideal diet involves no red meat and little to no poultry and fish. So it doesn't really make sense to criticize her for writing about this topic. That's like saying that she shouldn't publicize the harm smoking causes because some people who read this might enjoy smoking.
beram1220 beram1220 7 years
Just FYI anon (1:45pm) check out Fitsugar's about us page and you will see that this site is about: "Inspiring readers to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle, Fit gives readers tips on the latest workout fads and gear, common sense advice on healthy eating and exercises for relieving the stress of life. " I certainly don't find it insulting when a post is written about how running is healthy for you(and I am not a runner) so I don't see how this could be insulting either. The idea is to be educated and figure out what works best for you.
thatgirljj thatgirljj 7 years
I like this post, although I won't be sticking to a firm "meat budget". I'm trying not to be too obsessive about food rules. However, I *am* shifting my meat consumption at home over to grass fed beef (available at my local farmer's market), and eating out I try to choose vegitarian options, or lower carbon-impact proteins like fish.
Spiderlove Spiderlove 7 years
Wow, Anon, selfish much? If you don't want to read about how to be healthier or more responsible environmentally, don't click on the stories. No one is shoving anything down your throat about vegetarianism. I made my own decision to be vegan, my fiance is a complete meat and cheese eater. To each their own.
Spiderlove Spiderlove 7 years
Vegan here... but I am really supportive of anyone even TRYING to reduce the amount of animal products they consume. Like the above poster mentioned... Spread the Word about Meat Free Mondays! :)
couwy couwy 7 years
This is a great article, but the Toyota metaphor might not be the best thing to use right now, lol.
BrittaG BrittaG 7 years
Love this article! I too am starting a meat budget, and only buy from the local farmers market!
elle-dub elle-dub 7 years
I'm a vegetarian, but all of my carnivorous co-workers are now taking part in Meat Free Mondays. Check out for more info. I think it's a pretty cool campaign.
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