|Dr Michael Morris
Animal welfare writer
People give up eating meat for a number of valid reasons, including a concern for the welfare of animals, preservation of the environment, and for health.
For others, the decision is a spiritual one.
The Seventh Day Adventists for example, believe that if the body is the temple of the spirit, then we have an obligation to stay healthy and eat the diet that God intended.
What is surprising is that in these lean economic times, the most attractive feature of a plant based diet has not been more widely publicised; it is far cheaper than a diet based around animal protein. One reason why this is not more widely known is that the animal industries like to mislead consumers by pointing out the high cost of imported and processed fake meats and other specialised vegetarian fare.
If we wish to eat mostly imported processed foods then of course our food bill will be high. This is the case whether we are eating imported vegetarian sausages or imported meat based salami. If, however, we restrict our intake to items readily available in a supermarket, then the vegan choices are far cheaper than meat based meals.
The chicken and egg industries try to justify their inhumane practices on the basis they are providing cheap protein for the masses. For example, after it was revealed that chicken meat is riddled with Campylobacter, the industry told us all that chicken meat is good value for money. However, a more detailed look at the protein compositions of animal and plant products will show that this is a fallacy. Food composition tables of common New Zealand foods are published each year by the Ministry of Health and Plant and Food Research. If these are consulted, and a price comparison made, it can be seen that pulses, peanuts, lentils and rolled oats contain more protein for the same price than meat, cheese or eggs.
This superiority of plant based foods was highlighted in a recent article in the New Zealand Medical Journal. The price rises that Fonterra have been inflicting on the public make milk and cheese even less attractive than plant based alternatives as a cheap form of protein.
Beans, lentils, peanuts and chick peas may not be familiar products to New Zealanders, but this reflects our limited experience with culinary traditions rather than any inherent limitations on the part of these protein sources. In fact, these products have a major place in the culinary history of Mexico, India, Indonesia and Turkey respectively. The internet has terabytes of information on quick, tasty, nutritious recipes with these and other nutritious plant based ingredients. Simply type ‘vegan recipes’ into Google for pages and pages of mouthwatering meal ideas.
Institutions such as Adult Education Centres and the Seventh Day Adventist church also run cooking classes for those willing to try new ideas and save their money as well as their health.