Australians eat three times the world average of meat each year. Far from something to be proud of, this record-breaking rate of consumption is damaging our health, the environment, and the welfare of animals. Before you panic at the thought of going full veg, know that even by going meat free one day a week (a.k.a. becoming a flexitarian) can make a huge difference.
Meat Free Week is an initiative challenging Australians to go without meat (including seafood) for seven days to raise money for one of three leading charities — Bowel Cancer Australia, Voiceless and The World Land Trust — and raise awareness around the benefits of reducing meat intake. Co-Founder Lainie Bracher explains, “When it comes to meat, we eat well above the world average and nowhere near enough veggies, so we need to address the balance. In this regard, a meat-reduced diet makes perfect sense, so why not give it a go and see if you can make a difference.”
Globally, the growing demand for meat is leading to increased deforestation, water usage and climate change with the UN identifying the livestock industry as one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Here are some mind-blowing statistics:
- At a time when some 800 million people suffer malnutrition, one third of the world’s cereal harvest is fed to farm animals — enough to feed almost three billion people
- 90% of all chicken and pig meat in Australia is factory farmed
- Agriculture uses 70% of the planet’s fresh water
- Each year more than 66 billion land animals are slaughtered for food to feed 7 billion people
- Animals raised for food are denied the same legal protection from cruelty as cats and dogs
- Australians have an average consumption of 111.5kg of meat per person per annum, the world average is 41.9kg
In addition, while some meat in our diet does help us tick the protein and iron box, the over-consumption that is so common in Australia could be having adverse affects on health.
We asked Jan McLeod, Nutritionist and Health Coach at Mad for Health to share some need-to-knows about how eating meat impacts upon our health:
Your Health + Meat – The Facts:
- The World Cancer Research Fund indicates red meat consumption greater than 100-120g per day can be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
- Meat does not contain fibre. Lack of fibre is associated with increased risk of bowel cancer and type-2-diabetes.
- The proportion of adults who eat insufficient daily vegetables (5 daily serves) is 91% and the proportion of adults who eat insufficient daily fruit (2 daily serve) is 49%
- High protein diets (e.g. 200g+ per day) may place a strain on the kidneys. Ammonia is a by-product of protein metabolism is excreted in urine. Excessive amounts of protein can place a heavy workload on the kidneys and high levels of ammonia are dangerous to the body.
- The recommended guideline for weekly meat intake is 455g from the NHRMC (National Health & Research Medical Council) and 500g from Bowel Cancer Australia.
So how much meat should we be eating? Jan recommends, “Men should aim for approximately 3 servings and ladies 2 ½ servings. A serve is roughly equal to the palm of your hand. If you are looking for more specifics they are:
- 50-65g cooked lean red meat. Approximately 80-100g raw.
- 70-80g cooked chicken or turkey without skin. Approx. 80-100g raw.
- 70-90g cooked or smoked fish. Approximately 90–115g raw.
If going meat free all week scares you, “start small by introducing one meat free day a week. It will give you flexibility to meet recommended weekly meat intake, increase variety of food in your diet, help reduce your risk of chronic disease and improve your health.
Replace excessive meat intake with plant foods that contains protein and fibre, you will kill two birds in one. Examples include nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and chickpeas, quality seed grains such as quinoa and buckwheat and whole grains such as oats.”
To get you off to the right start, here are four vegetarian recipes so good you won’t think twice about the lack of meat…
Recipe: Baked Eggplant, Chickpeas and Green Chilli
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt, place in a colander and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towel.
- Place two large frying pans over medium–high heat. Lightly brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil. Add a single layer to each pan and fry for 4–6 minutes on both sides, until well browned. Set aside and repeat with the remaining slices. Place half the eggplant slices in a medium casserole dish.
- Return a frying pan to the heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, paprika and cumin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and pomegranate molasses. Mix together and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Pour half the tomato mixture over the eggplant slices in the casserole dish, cover with the remaining eggplant and then pour over the remaining tomato. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Serve in the dish or allow to rest and serve warm or at room temperature dressed with parsley and mint, pomegranate seeds and sea salt.
Recipe courtesy Meat Free Week
Recipe: Beetroot Burgers
By Cherie Hausler
- Blitz the cooked beans, herbs, tahini, spices and half of the seeds in a food processor until you have something resembling hommus. In a large bowl, combine the pureed bean mixture with the chopped leek and grated beetroot. Add the remaining seeds and cooked brown rice. Season to taste.
- To shape the burgers, have a plate of spelt flour at the ready and as you mould each burger with your hands, coat both sides in the flour, this will stop them sticking when you cook them.
- Heat a flat grill and cook the burgers for 8-10 minutes, flipping half way through the cooking time to ensure both sides are evenly cooked.
- Serve with fresh greens
Recipe courtesy Meat Free Week
Recipe: Vegan Zucchini and Kale Slice
Recipe by Veggieful
drizzle olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
500g zucchini, grated
1 big handful roughly torn kale leaves
2 teaspoons curry powder
Big pinch of salt
Big pinch of black pepper
350g extra firm tofu
200ml Vitasoy Soy Milky Lite
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- In a fry pan on medium to high heat, add the oil and onion and sauté until transparent.
- Wrap the grated zucchini in a cloth and squeeze hard to discard the excess liquid.
- Add in the garlic, kale and grated zucchini, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the zucchini has softened. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a food processor, add the curry powder, salt, pepper, tofu, Vitasoy Soy Milky Lite, nutritional yeast, flour and mustard and blend until smooth.Combine the creamy mixture from the processor and the zucchini mixture and pour it into a 25cm x 25cm lighty greased tin.
- Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until lightly browned on top and a skewer comes out clean.
- Allow to cool and put in the fridge until needed.
Recipe courtesy Vitasoy
Visit meatfreeweek.org for more information