Published on February 12, 2014 | by Karma Symington

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Why I dropped red meat

Karma decided to give up red meat following the Christmas period. [Benjamin Bishop]

Burger and Lobster, The Diner, Byron, Patty and Bun – to name just a few – are some of the most popular burger haunts around.

Students love burgers, kebabs and easy to cook dishes such as spaghetti bolognese and lasagne. All of these dishes have one thing in common: they are made with red meat.

Following the Christmas period and after talking to a friend about her decision to drop red meat from her diet, I decided to experiment.

Watching my family devour little pigs in blankets did not entice me to indulge.

For me, the decision was easy. My aim was to keep poultry and fish but to eliminate the red meat, which was never a favourite of mine…or so I thought.

After writing a weekly food diary of what I would typically eat for dinner, it became apparent that my ingestion of red meat was bigger than I imagined.

For instance, a shepherd’s pie, which is one of my favourite dishes, is made with either beef or lamb, and would be devoured in my household at least once a week.

Add in steak, or homemade burgers – and my intake was actually quite substantial and I found that I ate it at least twice a week.

Health

There are several perks from dropping red meat from your diet, and whether you do it for your health, the planet, or the animals, you’ll reap the benefits and then some.

Several studies have linked meat-free living with longer life. Harvard Medical School’s research indicated that cutting out red meat could prolong your life by up to 20 per cent.

The study concluded that each serving of red meat increased your risk of death by 13 per cent.

Cancer risk is also a worry. Breast, pancreatic, gastric and prostate cancers are more likely to develop in those who have a higher red meat intake.

A study of more than 900,000 women, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the more red meat or processed meat consumed by women in their twenties, thirties and forties, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer.

It is estimated that in 2010, around 21 per cent of bowel cancers in the UK were linked to the consumption of red and processed meat.

Financially, if you swap a beef burger for a bean burger you are saving money, and the same applies if you swap the steak for a chicken fillet. As students with financial burdens, we can all benefit from preserving a bit of extra cash.

Another big factor is weight maintenance, and we all want to lose a few pounds. I know I did after the indulgence over the Christmas period.

Obesity is a global problem, and in addition to red meat containing large amounts of fat, meat in general is harder to digest and so can lead to those pounds creeping up, especially when you least expect it. I for one don’t want a few pounds to turn into a few stones!

Craving

Butcher prepares red meat

Eliminating red meat from your diet can save you money. [Tom Setterfield]

For many, however, the financial and dieting benefits do little to suppress a red meat craving.

My classmate Emily tells me that the temptation is always prominent: “Sometimes I like to treat myself to a delicious burger. Byron is just a five-minute walk away from my university and it is just too tempting. Whilst I don’t eat a lot of red meat, when I do I enjoy it, and there are a lot of dishes that require it.”

As a self proclaimed animal lover, I have often felt like a hypocrite – and actually still do. While I have eradicated red meat from my diet, I am still eating fish and poultry.

The horse meat scandal in 2013 made shoppers everywhere more cautious when out shopping for their favourite cuts of beef, but what is the difference between eating a horse and eating a cow? They’re both animals, which is exactly my point.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to remain devoted to a vegetarian lifestyle and save all the little piggies from the big bad wolf (i.e., me). But for now, sacrificing red meat will suffice.

There are people who are die hard meat eaters and there are those who are not. But regardless of where you fall on the meat spectrum, even slightly reducing your consumption could see significant benefits in your health, not to mention your earth warrior status.

So perhaps, after reading this, you’ll change your mind about your fortnightly visit to Big Easy or Meatliquour, or simply cut down at least.

Together, we can save the animals, save the world and save our health, one veggie burger at a time.

 

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