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Mindful meat: how eating less but better meat can help your health - and the planet

This blog post was written by Tess Wilson, a Membership Consultant with Australian Fitness Network. A former competitive swimmer, Tess is passionate about healthy living and the life-enhancing power of healthy, nourishing and delicious real food.

Human beings are undeniably carnivorous. Meat is a delectable dinner staple, a piquant addition to any lunchtime sandwich and an enticing treat to add to your Sunday breakfast. Yet, in Western culture the role of meat in our daily diet has increased so considerably that it’s impacting negatively on human health. What’s more; the current pattern of global meat consumption is fundamentally unsustainable.

The astounding increase in worldwide meat consumption over the second half of the last century has seen a startling change in the meat production sector. The excessive consumption of meat has driven farmers to produce larger quantities of lower quality meat. Industrialised farming has hence become the norm, and with it negative consequences for human health.

The Sustainable Table, a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for a fair global food system, advises that the frequency at which we eat meat is so high that it is contributing to an increase in obesity and cardiovascular disorders. Consuming too much meat can also cause a rise in cholesterol and significantly increase the risk of developing type two diabetes.


The Sustainable Table therefore stipulates that the link between meat consumption and human health is indisputable and the need to make healthy choices when it comes to meat is vital.

But what are the right choices? How can we reverse the harmful pattern of excessive meat consumption? The answer is in sustainable food; in quality over quantity.

The consumer plays a key role in the market: the choices we make dictate production. Opting to be mindful with your food dollars can help determine a positive change in the global food system.

Eating sustainably means buying and consuming food that is grown or raised in a more environmentally, ethically and socially responsible way. Sustainable agricultural practices protect the environment, shield human health, and ensure the fair treatment of animals. Sustainably raised meat is not only superior in taste to that produced by industrial agriculture; choosing to eat sustainably is integral in achieving optimal health.

The health benefits of sustainably raised meats are far-reaching. In comparison to factory farmed meat, sustainable meat contains less fat, fewer calories and higher levels of important nutrients. According to The Sustainable Table, meat from pastured animals contains more vitamin E which is important to immune function and other metabolic processes, higher levels of vitamin A, which aids vision and reproduction, and retains more essential fatty acids like omega 3, which is central for brain function and cardiovascular health. In addition, sustainably raised meat is cultivated without the use of growth hormones, nontherapeutic antibiotics, or objectionable feed additives that undermine public health.

Meat is a major source of protein and is rich in iron and vitamins. However the nutrient content of meat has declined significantly with the rise of factory farming. Industrially raised animal products are high in fat and cholesterol, and contain fewer nutrients. Antibiotic use is also prevalent on industrial farms, creating the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This can be detrimental to human health as the meat we go on to consume contains antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections which can cause skin and blood contagions as well as illnesses such as pneumonia.

Eating sustainably grown, unprocessed meat can also reduce your risk of chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In line with making sustainable choices when it comes to meat, reducing the amount of meat we consume each week can contribute to curbing obesity and improving mortality.

With these health benefits in mind, opting for sustainably raised meat is undeniably the best choice when it comes to your health. Unfortunately, it is more expensive to raise animals sustainably and consequently sustainably raised meat is generally more expensive than the mass produced meat that is churned out by factory farms. However, you do not need to increase your weekly food budget in order to enjoy sustainable meat. Most people consume too much meat each week; choosing quality over quantity by eating less meat of a higher calibre is not only better for your health, it supports farmers who raise their stock responsibly.

There are a range of good practices to follow at the supermarket to ensure that your food dollars are spent with both personal and environmental health in mind. First of all, choose high quality meat from local farms that respect the welfare of their animals. Varying the types of meat you eat is also important in relieving pressure from factory farms that produce popular products of a low standard. Learning to cook with all cuts of meat is equally important as it reduces waste.

It is also important to take note of the labels on food products. The ‘slow food movement’, a global organisation that focuses on food that is good for people and good for the planet, advocates the importance of clear communication of food labels. Food labels enable consumers to make informed choices; reading the information on the products we buy is therefore essential in helping us make mindful food choices.

Slow food believes that food equals pleasure, awareness and responsibility. The organisation promotes good, clean and fair food to ensure a better future. The consumer plays a pivotal role in ensuring a sustainable future when it comes to food production. Your food choices are therefore a key contributor in improving the current food production system. Being mindful at the supermarket checkout goes a long way in improving your individual health, the health of animals and the health of our planet.

For more information visit sustainabletable.org or slowfood.com
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