Meat Rules!


Meat Rules!

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Ok. So meat does rule, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to lay out some actual rules and guidelines that I’ve set for myself and thought about over the last few weeks regarding eating meat. This all started after I posted a resolution for 2010 to eat meat no more than 4 times a week. I’ve since been in a few conversations with people where a bunch of questions have come up.

Questions like:

– What counts as one meal of meat? Surely if I eat a 6 ounce steak it should count differently than if I make risotto with chicken stock that I made from scratch right?

– What about quality? Is quantity the only important thing to take into account here? Will I only eat organic meat?

– Does fish count?

– Can I do this except not count bacon because it’s so delicious?

After spending some time thinking about it, here are my basic set of rules that I’m going to try to use throughout the year. Feel free to use them, change them, ignore them, or comment and tell me how wrong I am.


1) Meat Four Times a Week. When I say that I’m only eating meat four times a week, I mean servings of meat. Even a generous definition of serving size puts that at around 4 ounces of meat. I usually start the meat clock on Sunday morning. So far in doing this experiment, I’ve found it surprisingly easy to eat practically no meat during the week and then I normally eat more meat over the weekends.

2) No Rollovers. This isn’t a wireless plan. If I eat three servings one week, I can’t eat five the next week. Sure this encourages me to eat exactly 4 servings every week, but I see nothing wrong with that.

3) Multipliers and Fractions Are Possible. Since one meal is counted as a serving size, it’s possible (and very likely) to burn through more than one meal in a sitting. If I devour a 16 ounce porterhouse steak in one sitting that counts as all four meals (and yes I can do that without a problem). At the same time, if I use a strip of bacon to flavor a sauce, I could maybe count that as 1/2 serving of meat.

4) Homemade Stock is Free. If I take the time to make homemade stock like I did yesterday, the stock is free when used and doesn’t count toward one of my four meat servings. So if I make risotto or something later, it doesn’t count as a meat meal unless I add additional meat to it. Dan and I debated via chat for a bit on this one and this seems fair to me. The idea being that it encourages me to use scraps that otherwise might be thrown away… basically an incentive program.

If I purchase stock directly though it counts. Only homemade stock made from leftovers doesn’t count toward a meal.

5) Quality is Important. In my resolution, I didn’t make any statements about what kinds of meat I would be eating and that prompted a few emails from people – and rightfully so. I did this mainly because I think it’s possibly more important to eat less meat than it is to eat quality meat. It’s a pretty solid fact that it’s absolutely impossible to produce the levels of meat humans consume now in a humane and healthy manner… so step one seems to be: Eat less meat.

6) Going out. Going out to eat is difficult if I’m trying to watch my servings of meat and also keep quality in mind. It means that I will almost never eat meat at fast food places or chain restaurants. The exception might be Chipotle which seems to actually care about the quality of meat they serve. Although I might have to count one of their burritos as two servings!

I have no problem eating meat in a restaurant though if it’s of high quality.

7) Purchasing Meat. If given the opportunity, I almost exclusively buy hormone free and antibiotic free meat, and I would say that hormone free is slightly more important to me. As far as beef goes, grass fed is the way to go for me.

I don’t care as much about the organic label. A lot of small farms can’t get it even though they raise exceptionally healthy and happy animals. If the label is there, okay. But I don’t hunt for it. You can assume that any meat you see on Macheesmo will meet these standards.

8) Buy Low Demand Meat. I want to try to buy cheaper cuts of meat from very high quality sources. I think that will be the secret to keeping my grocery bill manageable. These are the cuts that other people don’t want and therefore I can get them for fairly cheap. The good news is that hopefully I’ll make delicious things with them, post the results, and you can do the same! I think the last time I bought boneless skinless chicken breasts was for a Chicken Parm I made over two months ago…

9) Avoid The Dollar Menu. I won’t pay less than a dollar/pound for meat unless it’s literally bones or scraps. It’s kind of an arbitrary number, but it freaks me out that meat is less expensive than veggies. We should demand higher standards and be willing to pay more for it.

10) Fish Counts. Fish counts just like any other meat.

11) Bacon Counts. I tried to use all of my logical and argumentative powers to exclude bacon from my rules, but alas… bacon counts. The good news is that bacon is so flavorful you can add 1/2 serving of bacon to many dishes and it’s incredibly filling.

So, what do you think? Are these rules rational? What do you disagree with? I’ve been talking to a few of you about these issues so I’d love to have a more public discussion. As always though, if you want to email me your thoughts, you definitely can!

Photo by Joshbousel.

22 Responses to “Meat Rules!” Leave a comment

  1. Interesting rules. I like them. I'm actually approaching this from the other direction. I stopped eating pork and beef over 15 years ago and I spent last year eating no meat other than fish (and tried to keep that to once a week). This year I'm adding meat back in to my diet, mostly because I've been craving it for the first time in many years. I'm eating meat about 2-3 meals a week and quality is critical. I'd like to eventually only get my meat directly from local farms (well except the fish).

    1. Thanks for the comment. I know a few people that have done this and have a similar standard… very high quality just a few times a week.

  2. These are very reasonable rules to follow, and yet not very limiting. I think that in our society where we are constantly bombarded with the idea that you can't have a meal without meat makes it a hard concept for some people to grasp. My husband and I just recently watched, Food Inc. Wow, what an eye opener! Makes you never want to walk into a supper market again! We already try to eat meat from the local area, but we've also decided to limit our meat intake as well. Anything you can do to help in some way, can make a huge impact on not only the enviroment, but your health as well.

  3. This looks like a great set of rules! My only caveat would be that if you're cooking for multiple people or amounts that will stretch over multiple meals, you should take that into account — for instance, one slice of bacon in a pot of sauce that will feed four people is probably much less than 1/2 serving per person…so don't know how you might want to deal with that. This is actually the most common way that I serve meat, as a flavoring or minor ingredient in a dish that will stretch to feed multiple people/make leftovers for the next day. But, anyway, this sounds like a great way to start eating! :)

  4. I think it's awesome that you've put so much thought into this. I'm assuming eggs don't count? Do you anticipate any problems with getting enough protein? Are your standards for meat carrying over to other animal products as well?

    This approach will probably be attacked by purists on both sides. I have been a vegetarian for 6 years now, and the hardcore carnivores I know still make remarks about how hypocritical it is that I eat eggs and dairy products. They can also think of a single time that I ate fish (I couldn't resist the sushi!) and refer to it as a relapse. As if all of my effort was for nothing because I faltered once and so I've lost all credibility. It's frustrating to be mocked for taking a moral stance on something so important. I still haven't figured out how to deal with this, as it happens at family gatherings and I don't want to start a fight. So good luck and if you have a strategy for defusing this argument while standing your ground I'd love to hear it!

    1. @rob also. Yea… I don't really include dairy in my analysis right now… although especially with eggs, I only eat high quality eggs and local eggs when I can get them. I love cheese more than anything and can't see myself ever giving it up. Not gonna happen.

      I'm not worried about protein at all. I eat a very varied diet and get plenty of protein without huge servings of meat every day.

      The thing you mention about "relapsing" and stuff like that is always hard… especially when others criticize. People get very worked up when it appears that you are criticizing their way of life (food choices, etc.) and this is not an issue that we've learned how to TALK about as a society. Honestly, I haven't really found a way to diffuse it within my own family.

      It's tough, but I'm a firm believer that you can't force someone to eat one way or purchase one way… so I try to just write about what I think is right and if people ask questions I try to answer them. But you won't ever see me go into someone's fridge and start judging based on food purchases. It's just not my place.

      I think a more measured response is better received. When people are ready (and not a moment before) they'll start asking questions and open up to discussions with you.

  5. Wow! That's impressive. I've been trying to develop a meat-philosophy that I can live with for nearly a year now, but I'm struggling. I like my proteins. A lot. And I can't afford to purchase what I currently eat at a local farm that does the hormone-free, grass fed thing. Of course, if I discover more good meat-free eats like the red lentil soup I made last night, this would be so much easier.

    Question for you about fish: farmed or not? Are you limiting consumption of fish higher on the food chain who are more likely to have higher levels of mercury (although limiting yourself to 4 servings a week probably makes this a non-issue)?

    Are you sure bacon doesn't count as a condiment? ;)

  6. Why not add some guidelines pertaining to animal welfare? The grass-fed beef of no. 7 goes some distance to reucing the suffering that you are causing through meat consumption, but it seems like you should take similar precautions for pigs, chickens, and eggs (i.e. strive to ensure that the animals involved got to see sunlight and move about while they lived). Thoughts?

    1. I think this is very important as well… the problem is that it's hard to glean these things based off of current labels. I do try to buy pastured animal products though (like vegetarian fed pastured eggs) and stuff like that.

      It's a labeling problem in my mind. It's not always clear how the animal was raised.

      1. Agreed. But in situations where you don't have sufficient information, what's the right thing to do? Just buy and eat the meat anyway?

  7. I think this is great. My husband and I are on the other end of the spectrum in a sense. We have a dietary requirement of 120-150 grams of protein per day which we get from organic, cage free eggs, cheese, organic yogurt, organic beans, and high quality, hormone free meats. We have found a butcher that only sells hormone free meats. It's pricey but it's well worth it so I no longer purchase meat and poultry at the grocery. I admire what you're doing and look forward to reading your progress.

  8. Doesn't seem like enough hours in the day to keep up — so I have to say while i know you;ve been having this ongoing conversation abt meat — when I read your link "Meat Rules" I took it to be a rant. Wow Nick's eating lots of meat again – LOL. Over the past year we've dabbled in producing more of our own foods from raw ingredients. For me personally that "Burger Snack Wrap" — makes me feel ill when I see it. Why not a Vegan Snack Wrap — like a Fallafel — Chickpea patties instead of Beef — could it be that beef is so cheap for McD? Nick you are so right. Thanks for taking the time to compile this Macheesmo Meat Manifesto — great idea. Just one thing – I love sardines and from what I've read — we're not hurting them — good eats on our fresh home made whole grain bread — we all set our own boundaries

    1. Oh my god. I hate the snack wrap. Like… what is that thing?! I agree… a veg one would have been much better. The one in the commercial looks absolutely disgusting. I can only imagine how bad it is in person…

  9. So I'm a recent devotee to Macheesmo. (You're breakfast cookies won me and my family over) So I apologize if this was already stated. But what is your motivation for reducing your meat intake? Is it a moral thing? Because while many of the comments are directed toward the "moral side" of eating meat, from what I've read, it was more of a healthy living i.e. you feel better when you don't eat as much meat. And is the final goal (somewhere around 2020) to be off of all meat (save bacon) altogether?

    1. I think it's somewhere in between for me Dann. I do think it's healthier to eat less meat, but also I have yet to read anything that says we can produce the huge quantities of meat we consume in a safe and humane way without factory farming… so it seems like step one is eat less meat and put pressure on the industry with your dollars to change.

      And no… I can't really see myself ever being vegetarian. I have no problem eating animals but I think it can and should be done in a respectful and safe way.

  10. I always commend people that think about their food choices, quality, quantity etc. My first question is why? I'm not sure I understand why you set meat rules for yourself? Health? Green? To be able to afford organic? Humane husbandry?

    1. It's a good question and I think the answer is a combination of all those things. I do think I actually feel healthier eating more veggies and fruits and less meat. There is a small element of green to it. And the budget thing is also part of it, but I'm honestly willing to pay for other ridiculous foods so that can't all describe it.

      I think it stems from some reading that I've done over the years and a few thoughtful movies I've seen that have really brought it to my attention how broken our meat supply chain is. I mean… it works in that it delivers very cheap meat to people, but there are SO many hidden costs in that chain… so these rules are kind of my way of putting pressure (a very very tiny bit of pressure) on factory farmers.

    1. Thanks Jason.

      To Readers: WARNING: The videos on that site are extremely graphic. It's produced by PETA and shows scenes from slaughterhouses.

  11. good work. just… try not to proselytize, a'ight?

    i think, in general, talking food philosophy (not writing, of course, but conversation) can lend itself to holier than thou attitudes, particularly if you feel virtuous in your decisions.

    your blog is much too much fun to get all preachy. ;)

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