Over the past years there has been an interesting trend towards increased meat eating. This might not seem like news to some of you, especially if you’ve always been meat-eater! But there has been a shift: many people choose to live their ethics by abstaining from meat and becomming vegetarians. But in the past few years many companies have responded to the demand for more humanely raised meat and/or natural meat offerings, which has allowed some vegetarians to justify the transition back to meat because their concern for animal welfare is not now as pressing at it was previously.
Most people understand (whether they acknowledge it or not) the current system of animal agriculture is unethical by any moral code: confinement, force-feeding, antibiotics, unsafe slaughter, and general health dangers to society because of this system. There are now many options out there for those that want to eat meat while remaining concerned about the welfare of the animals and the ecological impacts of industrial agriculture.
But there are other reasons people to return to eating meat, too. According to this article from Psychology Today, many vegetarians return to meat eating because of declining health. Many cite anemia, low energy, and general weakness. I’ve had many friends surrender vegetarianism in light of newly diagnosed soy or wheat allergies, which limit options as a vegetarian. Others simply say they miss the flavor of meat (bacon is usually the gateway meat). Still others say that it was a hassle to dine out or share family meals. This is not usually a problem with friends, and it has become much easier in the past ten years because of a general shift to healthier eating options; but I will reluctantly admit that my vegetarianism does sometimes strain the decision making process when trying to decide what to eat with the family.
Another trend is the adoption of a mostly-vegetarian-but-meat-eater-sometimes. This comes in many forms: some follow Meatless Mondays, cutting out meat just one day a week, while others eat like Mark Bittman: vegetarian before 6pm, and a meat-eater afterwards. The Paleolithic eating argument is also continuing to gain traction in the foodie community. Those eating a paleo, primal, or traditional diet (all are generally similar) include vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lots of meats and animal products while avoiding grains, sugars, and processed foods. Proponents of this way of eating claim that our primal ancestors lived this way and that our bodies are optimally designed for this type of eating. However, recent studies are contradicting this theory. According to this article, while our forebears didn’t eat the amount or type of grains that we consume today, they didn’t eat as much meat as we’d like to think, either. In fact, many arguments now state that our ancestors received most of their calories from plant foods and only a small to medium percentage from animal foods.
So what’s the ‘right’ diet for you? The truth is, there might be many styles of eating that will work for your body. If you think you might have a food allergy- often feeling bloated, gassy, or foggy-headed, check with a doctor and get testing for gluten, dairy, soy, or other allergies. Some people are happy, healthy vegetarians for 20 years (that’s me!), and others simply can’t be well without meat. Tune into your body, focus on your foods, and find what feels best for your body AND your ethics.
What about you- what’s your eating style?
Are you a long-time vegetarian or a newbie?
Are you a veg who has given up vegetarianism in favor of meat?
How have your politics changed as you’ve gotten older- or as the food system has changed?