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Veggie Power

Going beyond meatless mondays

By Robert Beauchamps

Have you hugged a vegetarian today? Many vegans and vegetarians claim that their nutritional choices make for a healthier planet for everyone. Go ahead. Give them a hug. Chances are there’s one sitting next to you as you read this. Research out of Dalhousie University suggests that nearly 10 per cent of the Canadian population consider themselves either vegan or vegetarian. It shows.

Just flip through the calendar: International Meatless Day, November 25; Veganuary for the entire month of January; World Vegetarian Day October 1st; and Meatless Monday every week. There’s no denying it. Saying ‘no’ to animal protein as nourishment is gaining in popularity whether for health, ethical, or environmental reasons.

Regardless of your views, there’s never been a more convenient time to consider cutting meat from your diet. Meatless food options are more plentiful than ever before. The voice of the veggie consumer is loud and clear, and it’s forcing both the restaurant and grocery industries to consider new approaches in how it provides protein to the population.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie, says that what concerns the meat industry most is how the majority of Canadian vegetarians and vegans are under the age of 35. “The increase in vegetarian influence will likely ramp up as today’s vegetarians become a bigger part of society,” says Mr. Charlebois.

Add the fact that science seems to suggest that, for the good of the planet and our bodies, we should eat more protein-rich legumes and vegetables. Think lentils, edamame, beans, and chickpeas. The options are myriad and tastier than ever. Just flip through any best-selling vegan recipe book and you’ll come across delectable dishes like beet salad with endive and arugula, quinoa tamales, baked lentil empanadas, cherry tomato cobbler, and grilled Portobello burgers.

The flavours, colours, and combinations are endless. The only limitation is imagination. Add the fact that every fruit and vegetable is available year-round in Montreal. You have little excuse not to vary the family menu every day of the week — not just on Mondays. Does that mean humans should stop eating meat altogether? Not necessarily.

Several experts argue that a sustainable food system can and should include livestock. Pastureland that would otherwise be unsuitable for growing crops is fine for grazing cattle. Furthermore, many animals eat crop scraps that would go to waste. They also produce manure that we use as fertilizer. Economically speaking, the livestock industry provides thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars.

For now, the majority of Quebecers are fine with the status quo. We love our animal proteins, from maple bacon and smoked meat to lamb shawarma and rotisserie chicken. Perhaps science will save both our bodies and our planet when they develop a way to “grow” meat from animal cells.

In the meantime, focus on balance. Mix in a meatless Monday (and maybe even a Wednesday or Friday) every week. How do you feel? More energy? Did you lose an inch or two around the middle? Maybe your friendly neighbourhood vegan is on to something.

 

Winter 2020, Vol 12 N°1

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