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Are You a Vegetarian, or Just Vegcurious?
Sarah Kuck, 5 Aug 09

News about the planetary impacts of meat-based diets is causing some eaters to reconsider their carnivorous ways. Red meat in particular results in a disproportionately higher amount of greenhouse gas emissions than other food, is often processed in unsanitary, unethical conditions and is responsible for a number of adverse health affects. Yet most find it difficult or even undesirable to cut meat out altogether.

People everywhere have cultural, monetary, religious and personal reasons behind what they choose to eat. However, with few exceptions, most people in most countries eat meat. This is especially true in the United States, where meat production has increased by 500 percent since 1950 to keep up with the American appetite for chicken, lamb, pork and beef.

But this is slowly changing. Although only 3.2 percent of Americans told the Vegetarian Times that they follow a vegetarian diet, nearly 10 percent reported that they eat a vegetarian-inclined diet, and 5 percent said that they are “definitely interested” in following a vegetarian-based diet in the future. That adds up to more than 40 million people changing their minds about meat.

For many people, making the switch takes time. To test the waters, some people are trying Meatless Mondays to cut down on the number of times a week they eat meat. Others only eat meat at dinner time, or cut out specific types of meat altogether.

And as the number of people who choose to eat mostly plants increases, so are the number of ways to describe and explain why they eat what they do. One of my new favorite words for describing someone who is a part-time vegetarian is vegcurious. Vegcurious is a term used to refer to someone who does not identify as vegan or vegetarian but feels or shows some curiosity in cutting meat and dairy products out of their diets. Some people also call this flexitarian. They occasionally like to eat meat, fish and dairy products, but are keen to practice a diet less destructive to the planet.

In addition to the traditionally strict vegetarian (no meat) and vegan diets (no animal products), there are also pescetarians, who will eat fish and/or seafood and freegans, who live a lifestyle that involves eating what's free (especially if it has been or is about to be tossed out), in order to make a political statement about waste and justice. Are these neologisms here to stay? Are such definitions useful?

When I was late for class, I once had a teacher who would reassuringly say "better late than never." I wonder, does this sentiment carry over to the food argument? Is it better to be a mindful meat eater than an unconscious carnivore? Or are we just making excuses?

Image credit: Mike Knell, Creative Commons License

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A fantastic resource on flexitarian (vegcurious) eating is the book The Flexitarian Diet by Registered Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner

Posted by: ThirstyApe on 5 Aug 09

Paragraph four lists some major trends associated with reducing meat consumption. Another, not mentioned, is the tendency for people to eat less meat per serving — for example, instead of one steak per person, a single steak might be halved and shared between two. I don't know how widespread this is, but it's certainly a trend among my friends. Anyone else noticing this?

However, my perception is that it's driven less by ethical and environmental concerns than by the rapidly increasing price of meat here in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Posted by: pohanginapete on 5 Aug 09

Here is a good video on the subject:

Posted by: tomfool on 5 Aug 09

I call myself a climate smart consumer and that goes for every area of consuming. General vegans and vegetarians are hypocritical if they state that their food is completely sustainable. It takes more than carrots and beans. In Sweden, where I come from, there is something called "grönbete" which pretty much means meat produced from resources we can´t use, like grass in the backyard. If you compare meat like that(or local fish for that matter) with a jar of imported garbanzo i´m pretty sure it´ll turn up in the favor of the carnivore.

It´s all about balance even if meat production should cut down drastically.

Posted by: Lars Hallén on 6 Aug 09

just did a blog post of my own on flexitarians... interesting concept that has the potential to be solution for a lot of people...

Posted by: josh on 9 Aug 09

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