I hope you’re sitting down because I’m about to smack you in the face with a crazy fact.
Did you know that Australia is ranked the second biggest meat eater in the world?
That’s right, the second. In the WORLD. Did you gasp in shock? I told you it was crazy. When you consider how readily available meat products are here, it’s easy to understand how so many Australians unconsciously consume meat, in some cases at every meal.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald aptly titled ‘Vegetarians cut heart disease risk by a third’ reported a recent study showed vegetarians have lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Results like this makes me hap-hap-happy! Next month you could try a vego diet, and raise money in the process.
18-24 March 2013 will be the first of an annual Australian initiative called Meat Free Week, a campaign I’m really excited about and would LOVE Aussie meat eaters to get behind.
To find out more I spoke to chef and Meat Free Week supporter Matt Wilkinson. Matt, a lovely English chap who now calls Australia home, is co-owner of restaurant Pope Joan, bar Bishop of Ostia and fast food outlet Spudbar (all in Melbourne) and author of cookbook Mr Wilkinson’s Vegetables. Matt is also is an ambassador of the Victorian Farmers Market Association.
I asked Matt why he believes Meat Free Week is important.
Ancient practices that have been around for centuries, like bear fighting and cock fighting, are now considered cruel and are no longer accepted. Yet we turn a blind eye to the cruelty involved with factory farming.
The best outcome of Meat Free Week would be for consumers to have an awareness that we are farming some terrible practices, to feed the whole world.
Matt says consumers can make real changes. To do this people should be conscious of what they are eating.
Consumers should know where their produce is coming from – free range is a healthy choice. It might cost more but it tastes and cooks better.
In 20 years, Matt hopes the next generation with show a change in people’s use of vegetation and as a result, they will be healthier.
We don’t focus on seasonal food anymore. We should celebrate foods that are coming into season.
Matt’s book Mr Wilkinson’s Vegetables, is based on using what’s in season, demonstrating that vegetables can be a meal. Matt also believes that meat free dishes don’t have to be complex.
The night before Matt cooked a simple curry for his family with fresh pumpkin, eggplant, onion and chick peas on brown rice. That sounds pretty darn good to me!
Two thirds of the world’s meat comes from factory farming and as I’ve talked about before, these practices are one of the main reasons why I became a vegetarian. Adopting a vegetarian diet may seem like an extreme response so fear not friends, that’s not what this is about!
How can I get involved?
It’s simple. Sign up and pledge to go without meat for one week. See, it’s not that hard! Then ask your family and friends to sponsor you for cold hard cash. The funds will go to Voiceless, a not-for-profit animal protection organisation who are working hard to put an end to cruel factory farming practices. Hooray!
I’ve made a $50 donation to Meat Free Week. I think it’s a great initiative and I’d love you to get involved. Will you be taking the challenge?
If you’re taking part and you’re not sure what to cook, check out these easy recipe ideas.