Why Go Meat Free For A Day?
Welcome to Meat Free Monday New Zealand! Cutting out meat, once a week has taken the world by storm and now Aotearoa is on board with a mission to excite and inspire ALL Kiwis – meat lovers, pie munchers and tree huggers alike – to discover the magnificent world of vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
We Kiwis love our meat, and in moderation it’s a great source of protein and nutrients. The downside is that our appetite for meat and dairy – millions of pounds a year from millions of animals – takes a toll on our digestive and cardiovascular health, our land, oceans and climate, animal welfare and our wallets!
With so many tasty Meat Free options, eating clean and green has never been more delicious. Whether you embrace Meat Free Monday for the environment, for your wallet, or for your health, you have the power to change the world, simply by changing what’s on your plate.
So take the plunge for your health, for your wallet and for our planet.
For Your HealthOpen or Close
And what about your health? The average New Zealander on a Western diet typically consumes double the protein our bodies actually need. Meat in moderation is a great source of protein, iron, zinc, niacin and key vitamins, but the scientific evidence is increasingly clear that over indulging in meat – partucularly red and processed meat – increases our risk of chronic preventable conditions which have reached epic proportions, like heart disease, stroke, cancer, liver and kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Vegetarian meals are naturally low in saturated fat, high in fibre, and full of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds. Meat, dairy products and eggs, on the other hand, are low in fibre and high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can make us overweight and lead to clogged arteries and heart attacks. Here’s what we have to look forward by reducing our nation’s meat intake:
Reduce Heart Disease – Beans, peas, nuts and seeds contain little to no saturated fats. Reducing saturated fats can help keep your cholesterol low, and cut risk of cardiovascular disease. Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%.
Limit Cancer Risk – In 2007 the World Cancer Research Fund report recommended limiting the consumption of red meats such as beef, pork and lamb because of a ‘convincing’ link with colorectal cancer. We Kiwis top the charts as having the highest rate of this preventable cancer in the world. Hundreds of other studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce cancer risk.
Fight Diabetes – Research suggests that plant-based diets – particularly those low in processed meat – can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Eat cleaner – chickens, cows, and pigs aren’t always fed what they’re designed to eat. In many cases they are fed what’s cheap and what makes them grow incredibly fast, including grains, hormones and rendered animals.Curb Obesity – People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. A plant-based diet is a great source of fibre (absent in animal products). This makes you feel full with fewer calories, i.e. lower calorie intake and less overeating.
Live Longer – Red and processed meat consumption is associated with increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
Improve Your Diet – Consuming protein rich vegetables like peas, beans and lentils results in higher intakes of fibre, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.Just what the doctor ordered!
For Your WalletOpen or Close
You might be surprised to learn that vegetarian food is not only good for your health and the environment; it’s also easy on your wallet! Food prices are continuing to rise, especially in packaged items and meat, which require extra expenses like feed and transportation. Forgoing meat once a week is a great way to cut the weekly budget. In fact, many staple vegetarian foods cost very little and can be found in the grocery store – not just in specialty markets. Whole grains like quinoa, barley and brown rice, legumes like chickpeas and soybeans, and other beans like black-eyed peas and black beans are protein packed and very inexpensive – certainly cheaper than processed and packaged foods! Bought in bulk, whole grains and beans can cost just pennies per meal. And because they are full of fibre they make you feel full and satisfied (put them into soups, stews, salads, burritos, etc.) without the side effect of heaps of saturated fat from animal protein. One block of tofu will provide a hearty meal for two, at half the price of two cuts of meat. Fresh and seasonal vegetables and fruits can be found at supermarkets and farmers’ markets for very reasonable prices.
But that’s not all. Giving meat a rest once a week will also help to curb both your personal and our national healthcare expenses in the long run. If you think these don’t affect you so much, think again. At the individual level, being sick is expensive. Moreover, a huge part of our country’s annual budget is committed to health-care costs, paid for by your tax dollars. There are also indirect healthcare costs due to lost productivity.
Here are some smart shopping tips to help you save on your food bills:
- Buy in season. Produce in season is usually less expensive than out-of-season produce because it’s more abundant.
- Where possible avoid pre-cut, washed, and packaged fruits and vegetables. They’re more expensive (and use more packaging) than whole foods
- Farmers’ markets are a great place to find fresh, in-season, and locally grown produce for cheap — especially if you shop at the end of the market day, when growers may be willing to sell their produce at a discount!
- Frozen veggies, particularly the store brands, are a steal! They are often cheaper than fresh ones, and can actually be more nutritious because the veggies are frozen right after they’re picked, preserving their nutrients. Keep an eye out for sales and stock up your freezer with veggies that can be tossed into soups, stews, stir-fries, pasta, and many other dishes.
- Grow your own! Turn your backyard, patio or kitchen windowsill into valuable real estate and enjoy home grown fruits and vegetables all year long. You’ll get fresh, organic food for a fraction of the price. Seedlings are fantastic, but growing from the seed is mega cheap!
For our planetOpen or Close
Cutting out meat, once a week is not only healthy for your body and your bank account; it’s great for the planet too! The livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to global environmental degradation. Producing all that meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertiliser, feed, fuel and water. It also generates 50% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and deposits a huge amount of toxic manure and wastewater into our groundwater, rivers, streams and, ultimately, the ocean. By taking the Meat Free Monday pledge you’re becoming an environmental champion, reducing your ecological footprint and lightening the load you place on nature.
Reduce your carbon footprint – Livestock animals produce large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gases far more concentrated than CO2. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions — compared with 13percent generated by all transportation combined. In 2009, however, WorldWatch Institute reported that the more accurate figure may be as high as 51percent. In New Zealand agriculture is responsible for 50percent of our climate change emissions profile. Annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Cutting out meat, once a week can help slow this trend.
Protect our fresh water supplies – The water needs of livestock are huge. An estimated 7000 to 9500 litres of water goes into producing only 500 grams of beef! It takes only a fraction of the water used for meat production to make an equivalent amount of plant protein. In addition, the excrement of millions of animals is leaching into our streams, contaminating our water systems and asphyxiating aquatic life and vegetation. Furthermore, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones find their way into our drinking water.
Reduce fossil fuel dependence. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Cutting out meat, once a week is an easy, healthy way to curb fossil fuel demand.
Protect our Oceans – SOFIA 2012 estimates that in 2009, 57 per cent of marine fisheries were fully exploited, while 30 per cent of all assessed marine stocks were over-exploited. Unless we reverse course, there will soon be no more edible fish in our mighty oceans.
Land Degradation. The Ministry of the Environment reports that animal farming is causing contamination, erosion, and compaction of New Zealand soil. Soil erosion is a natural process that has been accelerated by deforestation and intensive agriculture to rates about 100 times faster than the rates at which nature can form soil. According to UNEP, 24 per cent of the global land area has declined in productivity over the past 25 years due to unsustainable land-use.
Deforestation – Globally, one third of our planet’s landmass has already been cleared to farm animals, making animal farming the leading cause of deforestation around the world. 51 per cent of land in New Zealand, much of it once pristine native forest, is now farmland. With projected increase in global and domestic demand, the Ministry for Primary Industries has reported that some hundreds of thousands of hectares of forestry land are at risk of being converted to farms.
For world hungerOpen or Close
The less meat you eat – the more people we can feed! Currently around 870 million people, or one in eight, are suffering from chronic malnutrition, yet 80 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used to produce feed for farmed animals. If everyone on earth received 25 percent of his or her calories from animal products, only 3.2 billion people would have food to eat. Dropping that figure to 15 percent would mean that 4.2 billion people could be fed. If the whole world became vegan, there would be plenty food to feed all of us – more than 6.3 billion people.
In The Food Revolution, John Robbins estimates that more than 20 vegetarians can be fed on the same amount of land needed to feed one person consuming a meat-based diet. This is because animals convert plant protein and energy into meat protein and energy very inefficiently. It takes approximately 10kgs of grain and 13000 to 15000 litres of water, for instance, to produce just 1kg of beef! Furthermore, continued growth in meat output creates competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor, driving up food prices.
Meat producers are hoping to double the global production of meat by 2050. But this is not inevitable – or desirable. Taking the Meat Free Monday pledge will reduce your meat consumption by 15 percent, help curb global demand, and free up land and resources to produce other foodstuffs and control future food prices.
For animalsOpen or Close
The average meat-eater during their lifetime is personally responsible for the slaughter of 5 cows, 20 pigs, 30 sheep, 760 chickens, 46 turkeys, 15 ducks, 7 rabbits, 1 1/2 geese and 1/2 tonne of fish. According to the Worldwatch Institute, some 56 billion animals around the world are raised and slaughtered for food each year. In New Zealand, approximately 130 million are killed annually and millions more are farmed for dairy and eggs. This massive scale of meat production would not possible without the development of commercial methods of farming, or factory farming. These methods often overlook the welfare of animals, depriving them of exercise, space, fresh air and social interaction. Under crowded conditions, animals are kept ‘healthy’ with regular doses of antibiotics – traces of which can remain in the meat we eat, and which have been associated with the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria in animals and humans.
By choosing to Meat Free Monday you can save around 15 lives each year and send the message that you refuse to support the use of animals for food production.