Ecofarms pork from Gramercy Tavern
I'm an omnivore. I started eating meat a couple months ago after 20 years as a pescetarian (a diet that excludes red meat or poultry - though I did cheat with chicken soup when I was sick)
People have all kind of rationale for their personal diets. I stopped eating meat after a trip to Tibet for two reasons:
- After wandering the markets, I couldn't help but notice the connection the Tibetans had with their food. Meat was recognizably from animals, and all parts were used. Animals weren't industrially raised - they lived in normal environments where they ate grass and wandered. There was a respect for animals that was missing from the way I got meat at home, and since I didn't know any farmers, it seemed easier to abstain.
Industrial animal raising takes a toll on the environment (and the animals). Land is devastated from having thousands of animals crammed onto it, and they are fed unnatural diets of corn, soy, and ground meat. As a teenager, I didn't know that much about buying my own meat so I just opted out. The seas weren't as overfished then, so I thought I'd get most of protein from seafood.
As a pescetarian, at one time or other I fell into two bad habits that can trap lazy vegetarians. 1) I ended up on a processed junk food diet (pizza, potato chips and Cheetos) since it's easy and "vegetarian", and 2) I would forget to eat protein and become exhausted. Good vegetarians don't fall into these habits, but if you're lazy, that's what happens! (I like to think I've come a little further since then).
During the years that I stopped eating meat, new trends emerged:
- Seafood became very popular - to the point where it is now unsustainably overfished. Many seafood populations are near collapse, and large mighty fish like swordfish and cod are significantly smaller then they were since they are being caught younger. The sustainability issue is so confusing that I'm now avoiding most seafood. When eating it, I now refer to sustainable seafood resources.
- Traditional, locally grown meat has become more widely available. There are now several meat growers at my farmer's market who raise their animals without chemicals in stress-free environments. This happy trend seems to be fairly widespread, and is becoming even more so.
- I've become more physically active. I ran my first marathon last year, and noticed that training made me more tired than other people. It could be because I'm a wimp, but I prefer my hypothesis is that I wasn't eating enough protein.
So after several months of thinking, I took the plunge and started eating meat. For those of you that are thinking about it, my best advice is to start with small quantities to acclimate your system. The immediate effects for me were a stomach ache for a few days and (squeamish people don't read the rest of this sentence) mild diarrea. These didn't last more than a couple weeks.
As I try to be mindful about incorporating meat into my diet, I have these guiding principles:
- Only clean meat from conscientious farmers. I want my meat to be from ethical farms, where the animals eat their natural foods and roam outside at will. Eating animals that are flooded with stress hormones and chemicals does not appeal to me. Clean meat is more expensive, but I'm worth it (and so are the animals). It also means that I can continue to quiz the waiters at restaurants.
- Reasonable portions. Meat was traditionally used as a side or a flavoring. We don't need as much meat as is available - 4 oz. is enough - and I plan on following a "Mediterranean" type diet. I don't eat meat every day, but I will make an effort for daily protein.
- Locally sourced food. One of the great things about being an omnivore is that I can source more of my diet locally and support the family farmers and restaurants in the area. My diet is more local but wide open, which is exciting. I've found several restaurants that support local, artisan farmers. haven't started cooking meat yet, but I look forward to establishing more of a relationship with local farmers.
Does adding meat provide more energy? I'll report back after a few months of training.
What I ate: 12 oz. vegetable juice, Oikos yogurt + strawberries + blueberries, 1 cafe au lait, 3 oz. sauteed salmon + spinach + bok choy + shitaake mushrooms, 1 hardboiled egg, 1 plum, 1 coffee, Mindful Mix, 1 ear of corn, red lettuce + goat cheese + Schoolhouse Kitchen Balsamico Vinaigrette, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, 12 oz. pomegranate goatmilk kefir, Gruyere cheese, 66 oz. water
Exercise: 3 miles easy warm up/cool down, 3x1600 m intervals + 400m recovery