Vegans and vegetarians are not only typically healthier than those who eat meat, they’re also eating food that consumes fewer resources. Eating less meat is a great eco-friendly step you can take in your life to help the planet. Still, everyone from foodies to flexitarians enjoy meat from time to time, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy recipes with meat while still being considerate of the planet. Here are some helpful tips and options complete with recipes.
1. Go grassfed.
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Grass is the cow’s natural diet, and it makes for healthier animals and tastier meat. Grassfed standards also require sustainable practices as part of the equation, so always choose grassfed beef to avoid the factory-farmed Meatrix.
Recipe: steak salad.
2. Look for a meat CSA.
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Support local community farmers and ranchers, and reduce your carbon impact, by buying from a meat CSA whenever possible.
3. Go for oysters.
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Farmed oysters are a great choice. Not only are they healthy, but they’re good for the planet. Oysters will not grow if the water is not clean or if conditions are unsustainable, so unlike many fish farming practices, oyster farming is inherently eco-friendly. They are also filter feeders, meaning they don’t require additional food resources. And they clean the water.
Recipe: creamy winter oyster bisque. (note: for recipes, use local or organic ingredients whenever possible).
4. Pick the best shrimp.
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You might think wild is best, and you’d be right – American wild shrimp is the most eco-friendly option for this shellfish. Farmed may contain contaminants, and other wild shrimp may be harvested by companies that do not use nets that are environmentally friendly or safe for other animals like sea turtles.
Recipe: easy, spicy grilled shrimp.
5. Enjoy sardines.
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They’re tasty, full of heart-healthy fats, and they’re low on the food chain so they have minimal impact on the environment. They can be an acquired taste for some, but they go well on everything from pasta to toasted wheat bread to omelets. And sardines are sustainable.
Recipe: cucumber, egg and sardine sandwich.
6. Eat smart sushi.
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Know which sushi is likely to be full of mercury (bad for you) or from a threatened fishery (bad for the planet). There are choices that are sustainable, like albacore tuna, but you should skip the toro.
Recipe: tuna maki with brown rice.
7. Reduce portions.
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This is a very simple way to trim the fat off your own waistline while helping the planet. In most cultures and throughout most of human history, meat consumption has been a minimal part of the diet. The factory farming method required to produce the amount of meat we like to eat is not sustainable or healthy. Americans in particular eat far more animal protein than they need. Try reducing your portions down to 2-4 ounces per serving. Eat meat as an accent to vegetables and salads rather than as the major part of the meal.
8. Choose the best fish.
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The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute have excellent guides to help you determine which fish is healthiest and most sustainable. Avoid things like farmed salmon, Chilean sea bass and mahi mahi.
9. Know which chicken is best.
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Many chickens are raised in deplorable, crowded conditions, subjected to painful debeaking and tiny crates that are filthy. They’re fed a diet high in hormones and antibiotics just to make it to your table, and as a result they tend to be very high in saturated fat – almost as much as beef. And conventional chicken farming is bad for people in more ways than one. Choose only free range, organic chicken.
10. Enjoy exotics.
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Recipe: wild boar Korean meatballs.
11. Avoid the drive-through. And Britney.
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Fast food supports rainforest deforestation, pollution and inhumane animal conditions. Most meat at the drive-through is heavily processed, factory-produced fare. Go for a green restaurant instead – there are many across the United States.
12. Smart meat-eating tips.
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Use every part of the animal – eat the organs, make stock from the bones, do what our grandparents did and don’t waste anything. Buy organic or local.
Recipe: how to make your own chicken broth.