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.
– 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.