Friday, April 4, 2008

So, I've been checking out some forums associated with the Foodie Blogroll and there's a lot of chatter out there about "flexitarianism". M and I first encountered this term in an Eating Well from last year. I can't find the article on their website, but it was just a brief blurb. They defined flexitarians as people who mostly ate vegetarian food, but occasionally ate meat. M and I immediately defined ourselves as flexitarians! Since we try to only eat organic, humanely raised meat, our bank account doesn't allow for a lot of meat consumption. Eating low on the food chain also makes sense from an environmental perspective - growing vegetables takes far less energy than growing a similar amount of meat. Even with both the financial and environmental factors that push us toward a plant-based diet, we're just unlikely to go completely vegetarian. We like meat and completely going without it eliminates a huge range in our cooking reptoire. Even more, every time we buy meat from a small farm with humane care and butchering, we send a very real message that we support this type of farming. Each time that message goes out, more farms consider using these practices. I'm a huge fan of voting my opinions with my dollars. So all this puts us pretty firmly in the flexitarian camp. We probably eat meat no ore than once or twice a week and often in very small amounts when we do eat it.

That said, as I read more recent definitions of the term flexitarian (such as this set from the Urban Dictionary), I get the impression that term mostly refers to people who eat vegetarian at home, but will eat meat at restaurants or with friends. If it was up to me (which it's obviously not), I think I'd use the term "social omnivore" to cover that class of diet, reserving "flexitarian" for people who more completely embrace the limited meat diet. Then again, maybe there's an even better term for me out there...

Note: I liked this brief story on flexitarians from MSNBC, because I'm totally in this woman's camp - I LOVE sausage.


justagirl said...

Hi there, I actually found your blog doing a search for other hikers. But I was intrigued by this post, because I have been a vegetarian for 23 yrs. I'm not one of those people who flip out on meat eaters, though. I actually dont' care what anyone else eats. I like the fact that you and your husband try to eat humanely raised meat, though. That's awesome. I just finished reading an article about Chipotle, which serves meat from animals that are raised humanely and grain fed. I already loved Chipotle, but there's another reason! Have a great weekend! :)

J said...

Hi justagirl! I'm a BIG fan of Chipotle because it's one of the few inexpensive restaurants that has food that meets my family's ethics considerations!!!! Also, it's just really good. Interestingly though, I rarely get meat there - the bean and rice burritos (or bowls) are just too good to "gild" with meat!

Lidian said...

Hi, we are trying to do pretty much what you are, about 98% vegetarian though there will be a small amount of meat used mostly as a condiment in a few veggie dishes (such as red beans and rice, which has a bit of ham in it).

Look forward to reading your blog!

J said...

Hi lidian! We do a great red beans and rice with chorizo, similarly not too much. I'm a big meat as condiment person. It's even a pretty regular label on the blog... I'm excited to check your blog out too. It looks incredible!

J said...

My uncle reads the blog on RSS and so doesn't post comments, but he sent me a very cool email that I'm replicating here. My reply to him is the next comment:

I used to subscribe to the diet for a small plane system of thought. And for the most part I agree with your posture on less meat and eating more vegetarian foods. I think the term flexitarians sounds stupid, but that’s just me :).

But the books by Allan Nation present a pretty good argument (see some links below). Grass, a relatively costless crop, converts sunshine and rain (and nutrients in the soil – but we’ll get to that in a moment) into food that bovines turn into protein that we can use (milk or meat). It is kind of miraculous. The point being, that grass fed beef is very low maintenance and very low cost. It is also very sustainable. This method of raising food is cheap IF you have the beef close by. Many people don’t and there is always the argument about distribution, carbon footprint, etc. etc.

The misconception is that we have to feed or finish beef with grain. We do not. That custom is part of the consumerism and non-sustainable practices that have put our world on the course we find ourselves on. Promoted by agribusiness and the Beef council (can you say Lobby?). Hell most of the world eats goat and lamb. That means for the majority of the population beef is definitely NOT what’s for dinner.

You have to allow the animals enough land and you have to maintain the soil (more sustainable agriculture, organic practice, etc. etc.) If we stop making our waste into unusable garbage than our options begin to open out. What is waste to nature becomes food. It bears consideration.

Links to Allan Nations books

Some by others

I like the title of this

The Story of Stuff – an interesting primmer on waking up to our non-sustainable world view (though I do not agree with all of this it is pretty good for a primer)

J said...

I absolutely agree about grass fed beef. Most of the beef we buy is grass fed. In fact, most of the beef we buy is not beef at all, but bison which is all grass fed, tastes great, is naturally low fat, etc. Regardless though, the cost of grass fed beef is going to keep us eating low on the food chain until we make a bit more money :) More importantly though in terms of our national food choices, the space needed to grass feed beef means that if Americans are going to switch to grass fed meat, we need to REALLY dramatically lower typical meat consumption. I'm all for this, but I'm not sure the average American is. I haven't read Nation's stuff, but I'll check him out and post about it all.

Susan Chastain Hulbert said...

I like the term "social omnivore"! I'm very skittish about calling myself a vegetarian because I don't subscribe to the more hardcore political aspects - I think it's fine (and I would prefer) to eat humanely-raised and slaughtered meat. I wish more vegetarians were like justagirl.
I started my blog because so many people were confused about what i was cooking for dinner since my husband decided to go vegetarian this year. I'll be back to take a look at some more of your recipes ;)