Meat feast: Is it time to change the way we eat meat? – Part Two

One of the ideas he favours is slow cooked meat feasting that feeds a large group of people for one meal, or provides multiple small meals.

The idea is to invest more in the quality of the meat and its preparation, rather than buying lots of cheaper cuts.

Many omnivores are already eating more vegetable-based dishes more often, as seasonal produce recipes have been widely popularised by mainstream chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigel Slater.

For some, part-time veganism is another way of looking at this approach.

Negative stereotypes of veganism that stop it being attractive include the perceptions that it is austere, weak, extreme and involves sacrifice, says sociologist Dr Richard Twine.

He says meat is often an assumed part of a meal, has associations with masculinity and strength, and this coupled with food choices being very personal, has meant veganism has had a tough battle to become mainstream.

But Dr Twine says the “meanings of veganism are shifting as it becomes more normal – so now increasingly associated with health, strength and pleasure”.

“I favour a strategy of part-veganisation, in which more people feel socially comfortable to eat a plant-based diet more of the time,” Dr Twine says.

Another person advocating this strategy is New York Times food writer Mark Bittman.

He has just written VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health … for Good. He developed this style of eating – meat and dairy after 18:00 but not before – after his doctor indicated he needed to change for health reasons.

He tells Radio 4′s Food Programme: “The whole idea was to make something achievable. Make some rules but allow for gratification also – because let’s face it, very people either in the states in the US or the UK are going to come out and be 100% vegans.

“But a lot of people can be convinced they should be eating more plant food and the science tells us that’s what they should be doing.”

He said the reaction he has had from vegans has been “mixed”.

“There are those who believe I am a scourge on the earth, a blot on the landscape… but then there are some vegans who think this is great, because they believe that we need to be eating and using fewer animal products and they recognise this in a step in the right direction.”

Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of the Vegan Society says small steps can help pave the way towards a fully plant-based diet.

“We still believe it’s better for animals, environment and people to eat a (fully) plant-based diet, but to raise those questions in people’s minds ‘do we really need to eat that much?’ – often you’ll see people transition slowly. Not many people turn vegan overnight.

“Often people learn new things and start to question the evidence, and they will be able to take on new messages, not necessarily going vegan overnight, but trying a vegan breakfast, trying a vegan meal, and finding it out it’s healthy and fun,” says Jasmijn de Boo.

“I personally don’t believe feasts are necessary because we don’t need animal protein, all the nutrients you can get from animal products, you can get from plant-based products, but if people want to do that then it is definitely a step in the right direction,” she says.

Dr Twine wants food policy advice to be reassessed and redistributed to people.

“The Eat Well Plate is telling you to eat meat and dairy everyday,” he explains, “sociologists are interested in how a social practice becomes normal and proliferates. I think (reducing meat consumption) is achievable by a focus on replacement, which gives concept of sustainability more depth.”

Maybe it’s quite an easy thing to try. As after all, says Jasmijn de Boo: “Our message is quite simple really, everyone already eats vegan food. We (vegans) just eat a little more of it.”

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