Real Food Challenge Week 4: Meat

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I am back to report on how we did with week four’s meat challenge.  But first, just as a reminder or for those of you who are new to this blog, refer back to this post that explains what these Real Food Challenges are all about, and gives you links to the 100 Days of Real Food website.  That’s where I’m getting these challenges.

Okay, this week’s challenge was Week 4: All meat consumed this week will be locally raised (within 100-miles of your hometown). Meat consumption will also be limited to 3 – 4 servings this week, and when it is eaten meat will not be presented as the “focal point” of the meal. Instead meat will be treated as a side item or simply used to help flavor a dish.

They went further to explain that for this challenge, they define meat as beef, turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, venison, duck, etc.  (Basically land animals.)  There is no restriction on seafood or other animal products (like eggs and cheese) this week.  The point of this pledge is two-fold.  First, the focus on locally raised meat is because it is better for the environment.  When it comes to industrialized meat, not only does the travel aspect take a toll on our environment, but the resources used to raise, feed, and slaughter the animals do as well.  Also, the closer you get to the source of your food, the more you are able to be sure that you know what you are eating.  If you buy from local farmers, you can ask them personally about what they feed their animals and make sure that they do not use antibiotics or hormones.  The second part of this challenge was about reducing overall meat consumption.  I’m going to quote from the 100DoRF website: According to Mark Bittman in his book Food Matters, “60 billion animals are raised each year for food – 10 animals for every human on earth.” He also goes on to say that this rate of industrialized meat production is causing “enormous damage to the earth, including the significant acceleration of global warming.” Secondly, consuming meat at the alarming rate that it is being produced is not good for our health. Bittman says that our current rate of meat consumption has “stimulated a fundamental change in our diets that has contributed to our being overweight, even obese, and more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and perhaps even cancer.”

So, now that we have covered the whys and wherefores, let’s see how Tim and I did.  I think that week 4 was a smashing success.  I don’t know why we were so nervous about it.  We started the week with a well thought-out menu, and stuck to it.  There were many vegetarian dishes (like salads, veggie pizza, and veggie burgers), as well as a couple seafood dishes (like lemon-caper salmon or shrimp stir-fry).  As for locally raised meat, we bought some ground turkey and some pork shank.  We used the turkey in spaghetti sauce and had the pork with a huge heap load of veggies and a few roasted red potatoes.  Tim and I talked about our experience and we both agreed that we both felt satisfied and we did not miss our usual meaty dishes.

So, what have we learned?  We’ve decided that we will definitely be reducing our meat consumption from now on.  Neither of us are willing to give up meat entirely at this point, but we want to severely decrease the amount of meat we are consuming.  However, we aren’t really sold on the locally raised aspect of the challenge.  We are both in agreement that we do not want to ever buy conventional meat again* but I personally find the 100% local movement to be a bit elitist.  Local meats are insanely expensive; at least they are in my area.  I am not willing to buy sirloin for $19 per lb, or chicken breast for $11 per lb.  It’s just not happening.  I am willing to pay extra for certified organic meat that I know wasn’t on a feedlot and pumped full of hormones and whatnot, but I do have budgetary restrictions.  The system is broken and it is very difficult for people on a budget to afford to eat healthy.  You may have noticed the asterisk (*) earlier in this paragraph.  The one exception that Tim and I are still debating is chicken.  Conventionally raised chicken kind of grosses me out at this point, but we have yet to find affordable chicken that was not conventionally raised.  Believe me, I am looking, and will pounce on any specials I come across, but I’m not sure what we are going to do about or normal chicken choices.  We usually eat a lot of chicken, so even if we cut down, price is still a major factor in out decision making process.

So to recap, we will definitely choose to eat less meat from here on out and incorporate more vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Though not necessarily local, the meat that we do eat will be organically raised.  The only possible exception will be chicken, but that point is still up for debate in my household.  Oh, and we have already switched to almond milk instead of cow’s milk.  In general I am feeling better about our food choices.  I know that we still have adjustments to make, but we are headed in the right direction.  All of these baby steps will hopefully add up to some big changes toward a healthier lifestyle.

Moving on to this week’s challenge.  Week 5 is easy peasy because we don’t have to take anything away. Week 5: Try two new whole foods – Try a minimum of two new whole foods that you’ve never had before.  This challenge is both simple and exciting, and I am happy to have a challenge that doesn’t stress me out.  I am expecting another successful report next week.

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