Cutting back on meat? You’re a reducetarian

BY CATHIE ANDERSON
SACRAMENTO BEE/TNS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After giving up meat, Brian Kateman returned home to Staten Island, New York for Thanksgiving dinner and under pressure from his family, he grabbed a piece of turkey.

Simeon Gant prepares a salad for his dinner on July 6. He gave up pork 20 years ago, then beef five years ago. He no longer cooks chicken at home but occasionally eats it when he’s out. He’s one of a growing number of people who are being called Reducetarians.
(HECTOR AMEZCUA/SACRAMENTO BEE/TNS)

“In that moment, my sister, as siblings will do, took the opportunity to call me out on it and said, ‘I thought you were a vegetarian, Brian,’” Kateman recalled. “I had a similar experience when I went out to breakfast with some friends, and I took a piece of bacon.”

He talked with his friend Tyler Alterman about the impact that these gotcha moments could have on people’s efforts to eat less meat. How could they provide affirmation and encouragement rather than holding people up to ridicule for their failures?

They decided that, like vegetarians and vegans, people in this group needed guiding principles and a name around which they could coalesce.

A new term
The term “flexitarian,” they said, didn’t get across the idea of eliminating or cutting back on meat.

They played around with all sorts of other words before deciding on “reducetarian.” Google searches showed no one else was using it, so they created the Reducetarian Foundation.

“We know that it can be challenging sometimes to make drastic changes to diet,” Kateman said.

“So there was a real need to allow people to feel good about the fact that they were making a change in their diet, even if they weren’t perfect or pure. … The average American eats well over 200 pounds of meat a year, and so if a person was eating 10 pounds of meat in a year, why should we criticize them?”

A family choice
The Ziegler household over in Davis has reducetarians of virtually every stripe. Jay Ziegler, who handles government relations for the Nature Conservancy, said he has cut back on red meat out of concerns about cholesterol.

His wife, Carri, he said, doesn’t eat much red meat or pork because she doesn’t like either. Their teen son, William, is concerned about the environmental impact of factory farms and has reduced his consumption of red meat. Their daughter, Amelia, 20, is a vegan, so she doesn’t eat any animal products.

Variety of reasons
At the Reducetarian Foundation, Kateman and Alterman encourage people to eat less meat and remind people that vegans, vegetarians and reducetarians all share many of the same concerns about climate change, biodiversity loss, animal welfare and human health.

It’s far easier, however, to imagine a meatless world once people have been successful at going without meat, Kateman said.

“No matter what inspires someone to make a change to their diet that improves their bodies and the planet, we want to celebrate that,” Kateman said, “and so when a person says, ‘I just want to save money,’ we say a great way to do that is to eat more plant-based food.

“When a person says they just want to try new or interesting foods, we say, ‘Well, have you tried quinoa? Or, have you had the Impossible Burger? You should try them.’ ”

Book on subject
People can learn more about the reducetarian philosophy at reducetarian.org. Kateman, Alterman and their team also produced a book called “The Reducetarian Solution.”

Released in April, it has been endorsed by a diverse constellation of thought leaders, including Deepak Chopra and Sam Harris.

The book is a compilation of essays by a wide spectrum of people such as Bill McKibben, Peter Singer and Melanie Joy, but it also contains recipes to assist people trying to change their diet.

Health concerns
Sacramento resident Simeon Gant, executive director of Green Tech Education & Employment, gave up pork and meat for health reasons. He rarely cooks chicken at home out of concerns about salmonella.

“I felt like the food wasn’t fully digesting or going through my system,” Gant said. “It felt like it was clogged up in my chest area. I started eating more vegetables, and I felt like my flow became better. … What I’m still concerned about is when I think about red meat not digesting fully, I feel like if I’m eating less of that, I’m at least reducing my chances of getting cancer.”

Gant, however, is also concerned about animal welfare: “If we are mistreating or hurting or brutalizing the animals that we are eating, I do believe that some of that pain is transferred to our bodies as we are eating them.”

Book on subject
People can learn more about the reducetarian philosophy at reducetarian.org. Kateman, Alterman and their team also produced a book called “The Reducetarian Solution.” Released in April, it has been endorsed by a diverse constellation of thought leaders, including Deepak Chopra and Sam Harris. The book is a compilation of essays by a wide spectrum of people such as Bill McKibben, Peter Singer and Melanie Joy, but it also contains recipes to assist people trying to change their diet.

“I thought there was a lot of power in having all of these different voices with a varying spectrum of opinion coming together around a shared view,” Kateman said. “Sometimes, people get caught up in their small differences, and even though they have so much in common.”

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