There’s a new label joining the ranks on the meat vs meat-free spectrum, and while it might sound like pseudo-science, the Reducetarian Movement has noble goals. But is it here to stay?
According to US founder Brian Kateman, Reducetarian-ism encompasses anyone who commits to eating less animal products (including poultry, seafood, dairy and eggs) regardless of the degree or motivation. That includes vegans and vegetarians, but also appeals to those unwilling or unable to adhere to an "all-or-nothing" approach.
Kateman coined the term when he decided to tackle the language surrounding “cheating” vegetarians or vegans – and those who occasionally “fall off the bandwagon”. The self-described card-carrying vegetarian was himself called out after accepting a piece of turkey offered while under pressure from those at the dinner table. The moment sparked a keen desire to steer the conversation towards positive discussion about reducing societal consumption of meat.
Envisioning a world where people eat more plant-based meals, Kateman established the Reducetarian Foundation with long-time friend and collaborator Tyler Alterman. Kateman’s book, The Reducetarian Solution: How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet, was published in April.
Buzzwords aside, improving human health, protecting the environment, and sparing farm animals from cruelty are some of the main causes championed by the movement. It’s easy to tip the hat to these lofty aspirations, but there are consequences that come with drastic change, especially felt by smaller producers.
“I’d like to see how they [vegan and vegetarian businesses] go about reducing carbon footprints and actually making a change,” says chef Duncan Welgemoed of Adelaide restaurant Africola. “By working with farmers and producers, by working within agriculture and fisheries … rather than saying, ‘fuck it we’re not putting meat on the menu because it harms the environment’. Well what are you doing to help anyway? That isn’t helping the environment, what you’re doing is leaving farmers in the shit.”
Welgemoed is staunch about supporting family farms with old husbandry practices and biodynamic producers – those who are “changing the landscape for the better”. Seafood products come from regenerative practices, and “we don’t put anything on the menu that is overfished or even commercially fished,” he says. Welgemoed is leading a “Reducetarian” lifestyle to a certain extent anyway – without being labelled as such – both at home and work.
Of its 32-dish menu, Africola offers only six meat-based dishes and four with seafood. For everything else, veggies are the focus, with four or five dishes completely vegan. And while it’s never been known as a steakhouse, the ratios have changed over time in response to changing palates and customer demand. “As chefs or restaurants, you can’t wait for the government to change how they do business, you’ve got to lead from the front and change people’s perceptions,” he says.
Around the country, more and more eateries are reducing the number of meat dishes on their menus, significantly raising the ratio of vegetarian to meat options. Restaurateurs and chefs say diner demand and environmental considerations are driving these changes.
Sustainable dining has always been the motto for Matt Stone, formerly of Greenhouse in Perth and Brothl in Melbourne, and now executive chef at Oakridge Wines. While unfamiliar with the Reductetarian label, it's how he's been living for some time. “I've always had a big focus on vegetables so it’s great to see that the demand for these dishes has increased.”
Going forward, Stone predicts we'll see small artisan meat producers on the increase and big factories decline. “It's not easy to farm meat and people that do it right often do it tough so it’s important to pay them well.”
Stone isn’t fussed about the labels we use for ethical eating. “People can call it whatever they like as long as they’re doing the right thing for the planet.”
This article was updated on December 19, 2018.