September 23, 2009

Vegans, Vegetarians, Flexitarians, and Freeatarians. Oh, my!

Although I like to think of myself as a vegetarian, I do still eat some seafood which I guess makes me a flexitarian. Flexitarians generally eat no flesh, but once in a while do eat seafood, poultry or red meat. There are a stunning number of labels these days for describing our eating habits and styles. Where for centuries of our country's history, we strove for "three squares," now we graze, nosh, aim for six minis a day, and eat many, many meals "on the go."

When I first became interested in vegetarianism a very long time ago, the World Vegetarian Congress defined thirteen levels of vegetarianism ranging from vegans who use no milk, eggs, honey or any product, including clothing, dervied from the animal kingdon to Jain (Indian) vegetarians who avoid foods that grow below the ground.

Most people today who follow a flesh-free way of eating are ovo-lacto vegetarians, keeping eggs and dairy products as part of their diets. Of course meat is generally considered as a protein source, but it's an expensive one, especially in terms of our earth's limitied arable land.

While all the labels certainly can get confusing, the basic idea of limiting our intake of what's called pass-through protein makes great earth-savvy sense. Consider the idea JUST from an economic viewpoint... The acreage it takes to fatten a beef critter would feed so many more people in this world if planted in various protein-rich grains and legumes. (I'm sure you can see where the label "pass-through protein" comes from.) Actually, Americans HAVE been reducing their meat-eating in the recent past especially since this economic downturn began.

And remember, I'm just asking you to consider this from a personal and global economic perspective, not even factoring in health, ethical, or other individual considerations.

Okay, so what's a freeatarian, you ask? I was at a wedding recently where a table of us were discussing the whole range of vegetarian approaches, when one 20-something said that he's a freeatarian. HUH? "Yup, if it's free, I eat it!"