Telegraph Voices: Should people in Sheffield be eating less meat in their diets?

A black and white Holstein is the cow that has won Interbreed Champion at Wensleydale Show for the past two years
A black and white Holstein is the cow that has won Interbreed Champion at Wensleydale Show for the past two years

The Sheffield Telegraph weighs up the cost - in terms of health and the environment - of eating meat in this week’s debate.

Moya Sketchley, Barra Organics, Sharrowvale Road

Since taking the plunge last January and cutting out meat and dairy from my diet I feel great - I have greater energy levels and definitely feel lighter and brighter.

My primary motivation for making the change was ethically driven. I decided the way large scale meat and dairy industries were treating the animals in their care was just not acceptable. Running an organic and seasonal greengrocers I was already thinking how, as consumers, we co-exist with our planet and choosing to leave meat and dairy off my plate was yet another move in the right direction towards a more positive intent.

I have found vegan cooking to be full of surprises and new ways of using plant-based ingredients. With a little bit of research and creativity, a vegan diet can easily fulfill all your nutritional and gastronomic requirements. But it definitely helps if you are open-minded and enjoy flexible and resourceful cooking. Left-over vegetable stews can become curries or chilies, soups sauces, smoothies can be transformed into puddings.

So you need to get organised, treat yourself to some good quality ingredients and recipe books, and research some decent places to eat out for those times when you want somebody else to do the cooking. We like the Wortley Arms pub, in Wortley near Barnsley, for a special family or birthday event, Upshot Espresso on Glossop Road and Street Food Chef or Porter Pizza on Sharrow Vale road for a lunchtime or early evening treat .

If you are thinking of cutting back on meat and dairy and, like me, you have never been a vegetarian before, remember meat and dairy are not addictive like smoking or alcohol. But be prepared to give up some of those habitual food choices, and be extra prepared to redefine what comfort food really means to you.

We are all unique and what we choose to eat reflects so much about who we really are.

Isobel Thomas, Sheffield Sings Out for the Climate

I eat meat. But I’ve recently tried to reduce the amount of meat our family eats each week.

Why? First there are the health reasons.

A diet consisting predominantly of animal products brings with it an increased risk of long-term health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

My other reason has to do with the link between meat production and climate change. The methane that livestock produce themselves and the nitrous oxide from the manure and fertilisers used in the production of animal feed, are potent greenhouse gases and important contributors to global warming.

In fact greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are estimated to account for around 15 per cent of global emissions.

This is more than direct emissions from powering all the world’s transport systems (according to a report published in 2014 by Chatham House).

Recent flooding is a reminder that climate change is real.

Last year was the hottest on record, but 2016 is set to beat that.

At the UN Climate Talks in Paris a year ago governments committed to take action to keep global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Changing what you eat can be hard and some people do not have the luxury to make choices about the food they eat.

Yet collectively we do need to find a way to reduce the amount of meat that we eat if we are going to keep warming below two degrees Celsius.

We also need to find a way to dramatically cut food waste. It is estimated that £400 million of food is wasted in Sheffield each year.

A place to start is for our schools, universities, hospitals and other public institutions to promote meat free days on a regular basis, such as Meat Free Mondays.

According to a report published earlier this year by Oxford University’s Oxford Martin School, sticking to health guidelines for meat consumption could cut global food emissions by nearly a third by 2050.

So by encouraging more people to eat less meat we can have an impact on health and climate change.

Hannah Bailey, Wise Choice Nutrition

There’s no black and white answer. I’m a meat eater and probably always will be. I enjoy it and it’s an important part of our diet. It isn’t a necessity, but personal preference, and a high-protein, higher-fat diet with less carbohydrates has health benefits for many people. There’s also emerging evidence suggesting saturated fat is less harmful, which fuelled the advice to eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet.

I think there is a wider issue though. We as a nation want food quickly and cheaply which is never going to lead to good quality. Most meat is pumped full of water, antibiotics and growth hormones to get the animal as big as possible, as quickly as possible. That isn’t necessarily the case for meat in butchers’ shops and organic meat but the majority of supermarket and restaurant meat is produced that way, not necessarily at the fault of the farmer but the pressure from supermarkets to maximise profits.

I believe we should be looking more at where the meat comes from and how it’s produced, rather than necessarily reducing meat intake. However, organic and free-range meat is more expensive and most people are not prepared to invest in better quality food for themselves and their families. I do feel we should be reducing our intake of processed meat (bacon, sausages, ham, burgers etc) because the nutritional value of these meats is poor.

There are always people’s own beliefs, ethics and religious views to take into account too. Vegan diets are increasingly popular, but are not necessarily healthier.

I eat a mixture of meat and fish based-meals, and vegetarian meals, because I enjoy the variety and would encourage others to do similar. It’s a great way to increase vegetable and nutrient intake in our diets which severely lack nutritious food.

Ben Davies, chief executive, Whirlow Hall Farm Trust

What a question to ask an organisation that’s just opened its own on-site butchery!

But that aside, it’s an issue that really gets discussion going - health, ethics, religion, environmental concerns all come into play. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the vast majority of us enjoy meat and that’s unlikely to change significantly anytime soon.

So from Whirlow Hall Farm Trust’s perspective, the question is more ‘Should people think more carefully about the meat they eat?’.

Like other small producers, the Whirlow Hall Farm Trust ethos is about having real respect for our animals - keeping low numbers of beasts to the highest standards of animal care and, when the end is nigh for one of them, making that as stress-free a process as it can be.

We believe that is what makes the meat we produce so fantastic.

But I know just how much time and effort our Farm Team have to put into ensuring our flocks and herds are in great condition and there’s no ignoring the fact that that comes at a cost.

So, I do think folk should consider what the price they are paying for their meat means in terms of how those animals were raised and killed; it’s one area where you will definitely get what you pay for.

Being an educational charity, we’re also firm believers that folk, children included, should know what it takes to put meat on their plates.

That’s why we encourage visitors to come up to the farm so they can see and talk about the sheep, pigs, cattle and poultry.

Recently I’ve had some great chats with kids about the turkeys that are running around in the Showfield, and what Christmas means to them!

It’s so reassuring that provided you are honest about things, and can show that you really care about the animals, children are invariably very ‘grown-up’ about the whole business.

So, to my mind it’s not necessarily about how much meat you eat, it’s about how much you care about the meat you eat.