Calling All Carnivores: 7 Painless Ways to Be an Almost-Vegetarian

Call it flexitarianism, conscious meat consumption, or low meat eating, lots of people are saving the flesh for special occasions and adopting a veg-centric diet. If you’ve been thinking about going vegetarian or vegan for the planet, but you really like meat and think you’ll miss it, or you’re worried that your nutrition will suffer, or you don’t want to subject your entire family to an extreme change, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be black and white.

On a personal note, I’ve been eating about 85% veg for a few years now and it works for me”¦my body, my budget, and my beliefs.

Conventional livestock production uses tons of grain, water, and petroleum. It’s extremely inefficient, has huge environmental impacts, and is cruel to animals. For a detailed picture, read this now classic piece on The Meat Guzzler by Mark Bittman of the New York Times.

On the other hand, abolishing meat entirely is a bad idea because livestock can be an important part of ecological farming (not to mention a tough sell to a meat loving public). Pasture-raised meat is better for the environment, animals, and us by far, but requires more land. If we’re going to produce meat more sustainably, we’re going to have to eat a lot less of it. That’s the challenge.

Because drastic lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, humans have a tendency to do nothing until they feel ready to make a leap, but tiny steps can actually make a difference and lead to a complete change in the end, if that’s where you decide you’re headed.

The first step is to change your mindset from thinking of meat as the center of the plate and shift your shopping and cooking habits. It starts at that all-important moment when you’re thinking of what to make for dinner. Train your brain to build the meal around grains, beans, and vegetables, instead of a pork chop. There are many ways to do this and none of them are difficult.

Let’s get started!

1. Take a Class

This story about an eco-conscious, low meat cooking teacher in Portland, Oregon Made me think there must be others all over the country. Check Craig’s List and your community message boards.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.