Many people are cutting down on the meat in their diets for several reasons: their health, the health of the environment and the treatment of animals and workers. Not everyone gets a pang in their heart when they see how today's factory farms treat "animal units," but few today actually believe meat is good for you anymore. "Use meat as a side dish or flavor enhancer rather than as the focus of a meal," says the American Cancer Society. "Limit lean meat, skinless chicken and fish to less than six ounces per day, total," says the American Heart Association. What are they trying to say?
Meat's fat, cholesterol and calories are bad enough, many say, without the hormones, antibiotics, growth producers and other veterinary drugs used in commercial meat operations.
Now, a new community group is hoping to unite all the people who for economic, ethical, health and environmental reasons want to cut down on meat under the umbrella term "reducetarian." Reducetarianism is "an identity, community, and movement. It is composed of individuals who are committed to eating less meat -- red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal," says the website. "The concept is appealing because not everyone is able or willing to completely eliminate meat from their diet."
In a thought-provoking TED lecture 25-year-old reducetarian movement co-founder Brian Kateman addresses the gulf that happens when two people meet for lunch and one is vegan -- it "changes their perception of each other forever," he notes. Even if the non-vegan luncher is "semi-vegetarian," "mostly vegetarian" or "flexitarian," there is often a "pulse of discomfort", says Kateman and the terms become a "boxing match for moral superiority." Yet, by the new movement's definitions, both lunchers are reducetarians.
"Identifiers such as semi-vegetarian and flexitarian sound weak and inconsistent and describe individuals who primarily eat fruits and vegetables with the occasional inclusion of meat," Kateman told me in an email. Reducetarians, on the other hand, view each meal as a choice and the movement "encourages people to gradually eat less meat with respect to their own diet."
Since its launch, Reducetarianism has received support from Steven Pinker, Peter Singer, Dan Gilbert, Michael Pollan, Maria Elia, the celebrity chef and author and many other well-known figures.
"I love meat. I love big juicy steaks, crispy fried chicken, and soft tender pork. But you know what else I love? Rich creamy eggplant, crunchy sweet snap peas, and buttery, salty potatoes. Also seitan. Have you had it? It totally crushes tofu," says Dan Pashman, host of "The Sporkful" food podcast and author of Eat More Better: How To Make Every Bite More Delicious on the Reducetarianism website.
In a phone interview I asked Kateman why the sad and gory factory farming Web photos make some people renounce meat but leave others unmoved. The photos can be persuasive, he told me, but meat eating is very entrenched in our culture. People can also find cutting down on meat "impractical" because they lack access to healthy foods or they lack knowledge about better eating. Also, he said in his TED lecture, the commitment to cutting down on meat can waver as people have "carnivore" moments or smell bacon frying.
The reducetarian campaign is unique in addressing the value of eating less meat from an ethical, environment and human health perspective, rather than focusing on a single issue, summarizes Kateman. Every person trying to reduce meat consumption and mindful about their next meal is part of the reducetarian movement he says. They can take a pledge to eat less meat for 30 days and share photos of their meatless meals using the hashtag #lessmeat and tag @reducetarian.