Are you sometimes torn between a juicy burger and the possibility of colon cancer or heart disease, or maybe a little guilt over the killing of the animal?

Making the rounds in the news this week is a new study that concludes that eating red meat might not be as bad for us as we’ve been led to believe. The conclusion is that the existing dietary guidelines are not backed by good scientific evidence so you might rest a little easier.

I don’t eat meat or fish and haven’t for a long time, but I’m not surprised by these new findings. I think that like anything else eating a lot of meat is not the best idea and meat is usually served with a hellacious amount of bread and potatoes. Not to mention the steroids and other chemicals fed to animals you are eating. Moderate amounts of organic meat are probably quite good for us. After all we are natural born omnivores.

Native American Indians ate only meat before the Europeans arrived and they were apparently some of the healthiest people around. But then again in those days the average lifespan was very long so it’s hard to assess the sustainability of that or any other “traditional” diet.

I’ve heard plenty of stories from vegetarians who start to eat meat again because they hadn’t been feeling well, and the addition of meat has made them feel much better. Left out of the biological analysis is the questions, “how does the meat taste”, to which I always notice a big smile behind the expressive “delicious”. There is a lot to be said for the biological effects of pleasure.

But there is no doubt of meat’s dark side which is very easy to disassociate from. Animals are farmed and killed in mass. The process of farming puts a huge strain on the environment and food supply for humans. And a lot of the good is then wasted. The UN estimates that about 1/3 of the good produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year.  One of the most socially and environmentally responsible behaviors we can adopt is be mindful of your meat consumption.

Anecdotally, I stopped eating meat about 9 years ago after cycling across Africa. I had always eaten my fair share of meat but after that trip I didn’t feel as good as I thought I should and gave up meat as an experiment. Within weeks I felt noticeably more energized. I’ve stuck with it partially because it feels good although a nice steak every now and again wouldn’t hurt. But I’m further motivated by meat’s dark-side and I don’t crave the taste much anymore. I still eat eggs and dairy. All that B12, iron and protein that comes with vegetables, eggs and dairy seems to be more than enough for an active life.

 

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