How Flexitarian do we have to be?  That’s the question that has been bothering me for the past year.   I think I have found the answer.

It must be obvious to everyone by now that the world needs to eat less meat and dairy in order live within environmental limits.  But how much less?  I know the nutritional advice but how does it compare with what a truly healthy environment can provide?

Cards on the table – full-on veganism is just not going to work in our household.  These days we might be classed as flexitarian but we think there are good nutritional reasons to keep having meat and dairy.  Not only that, because we like real food, the factory-made or fortified substitutes won’t cut it with us. 

So how much less do we need to eat in order to save the planet?

Thank you to Will Farr, whose blog led me to the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission’s most recent report.  It concludes that with a change of diet and a practically organic farming future, the UK can achieve environmental sustainability.  It also provided me with coherent dietary advice within those environmental limits:   a maximum of 35g of animal-sourced protein per person per day.  That includes meat, fish, dairy and eggs. 

For the academically minded, the FFCC report is based on research by IDDR and their recommended TYFA diet contains less animal protein than that, due to a low intake of dairy and eggs.  You can find it on page 42 of their 2018 TYFA report.   However, both TYFA and The Planetary Health Diet, published by the EAT-Lancet Commission in 2019, concur that the daily average consumption of meat or fish should be 18-20g of protein

In fact, a maximum 35g of animal-sourced protein is an easily attainable goal.  At home, we already achieve this regularly, usually like this:

Milk/yoghurt – 200ml semi-skimmed – protein 7g – the teenager has a bit more for the calcium

Cheese 30g OR 1 egg –  protein 7-8 g

Meat or fish – 80g uncooked (60g cooked)- protein 16-18g

Where we don’t achieve this it’s when we eat ‘out’.  The amount of meat or dairy in a sandwich, takeaway or restaurant meal is much higher than in food we prepare ourselves.

A maximum 18-20g of protein from meat or fish is not hard either, with mindful shopping and cooking.  It equates to 80-100g of uncooked meat, equivalent to 60-75g of cooked meat.  So we can still eat meat, as long as it’s not the centrepiece. 

The roadmap for everyone is clear then:   Adjust all ‘meat’ meals to include no more than 80-100g of raw meat, or 60-70g of cooked meat per person.  Eat only one of those ‘meat’ meals a day – less often if possible.  And keep a lid on the eggs and dairy.

Meat at breakfast?  Vegetarian or vegan for the rest of the day.  Steak on Tuesday?  Vegan for the rest of the week!  

I would suggest that restaurants and caterers should cut the amount of meat in their servings too,   otherwise it is so easy to overeat.  I don’t want to eat vegan whenever I’m out, but equally I don’t want to have a lot of unnecessary meat and dairy.  Of course some meat can remain in our diet, but we still need to move meat off centre stage and into Side, Flavour and Garnish status.  

I love the #Lessandbetter concept espoused by our Slow growers and Pasture Fed farmers.  Armed with this new measure of ‘Less’, I will also be ensuring that all the meat and dairy we buy is ‘Better’ too.

Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.

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