Why less is more when it comes to eating meat

Posted on 16 November 2018 by

Rachel de Thample

in the Animals in farming blog

In the United Kingdom, Britons consume twice as much protein as they need, eating an average of 80kg of meat and 10.2kg of cheese each year

How much protein do we need?

This level of protein consumption in the UK is equivalent to 1,400 pork sausages and 40 blocks of Cheddar.  

Meat consumption is even higher in America, where the average person eats 125kg of meat annually. In the second half of the 20th century, worldwide meat production increased roughly five-fold. 

We don’t actually need to eat meat or the percentage of protein most of us consume. Nutritional guidelines say we only need an average of 50g of protein each day.  

One chicken breast offers the full amount, so this alone will make you protein fit for the day. However, you don’t even need this much meat to satisfy your needs as just about every food has a bit of protein in it, even strawberries. 

Best places to purchase higher welfare

Going to farmers’ markets or buying direct from a farm or farm shop is your best bet as you’re cutting out the middle man and you can ask questions about how they rear their meat directly.  

A farmer selling his or her meat directly will be keen to share the stories about their animals and their farm. And if they invite you along to have a look for yourself, even better.  

If you can’t source directly, local box schemes or butchers are your second-best bet. Do ask questions, however, to find out more about the farms and if they’re buying the meat direct from the farm or from a whole seller. If it’s a whole seller, which is sometimes the case, they might not have much information about how the animals are reared. 

Supermarkets are decent sources for good meat, too, if you pay close attention to the labelling schemes. I would always opt for organic. And if you’re in the UK, Soil Association certified meat is a good choice as it has some of the highest standards around.  

Scratch the surface by looking up what the different labels mean and ask questions. This will help create more demand for better meat.

Chickens in a higher welfare farm in the UK. Photo courtesy of the RSPCA

Why it pays to spend more

Meat that is reared to high welfare standards is healthier, especially if the animals are free to get lots of exercise, sunshine and eat their natural diet. A 6oz (175g) steak from a grass-fed cow, for instance, can have 100 fewer calories than the grain-fed equivalent.

Meat from chickens who are reared outdoors and allowed to run around and eat omega-rich grass can have up to 50% more vitamin A and 100% more omega-3 fatty acids. 

Making the most of the meat you buy

So much of the food we buy is wasted, including a shocking amount of meat. When you spend that little bit more on good-quality meat, you’ll be compelled to make it last longer, especially if you know that every bit of it is richer in nutrients, even the fat.  

Okinawa in Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy and pork lard, from outdoor-reared animals, is the residents’ primary cooking fat. The fat from meat actually helps you digest the protein, so all the more reason to pay more and make the most of every scrap.

Simple daily changes to your routine can really make an enormous difference. 

By choosing higher-welfare meat, asking questions about where it’s come from when you shop and eating less meat, you really can make a huge impact not only on the well-being of farmed animals, but on your own health and the environment, too.

Read more about our work campaigning for better farming here.

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