Chinese encouraged to eat less meat
A few weeks ago I read a piece of news about the Chinese government modifying their dietary guidelines and reducing the recommended quantities of meat to eat per day. The article can be read in English here and it is being announced as a measure that can help reducing greenhouse gas emissions and save water and land that is currently used to raise livestock. There is also a campaign with Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron and Li Bingbing to promote a reduction in meat consumption in China.
Will it work?
Mean consumption in China has increased dramatically since the 80s. Between 2003 and 2013 it jumped by 25%. Chinese people did not get to eat much meat before the 80s (heck, sometimes they didn’t have much to eat at all) and now it’s like they want to recover what they missed. Every meal has to include meat and most people have this ingrained idea that vegetables are what poor peasants eat. And no one wants to be taken for a poor peasant! The most popular type of meat is pork and even the vegetable dishes usually have pieces of meat to give them more flavour. Beef is expensive, but you can still find it easily. Fancy supermarkets sell beef imported from Australia or New Zealand. There are even beef steaks packaged and labelled as “beef for children” (and people from all countries are more prone to spend money on good quality things for their kids).
In wedding banquets, many of the dishes are meat. In Suzhou, the standard banquet will include a chunk of fatty pork, cold chicken or duck, chicken soup and sometimes black pepper beef. The rest of the dishes are seafood and fish. There might be a stir fried vegetable dish at the end. Chinese wedding banquets are a way to flaunt your wealth and treat your guests to the best foods available. The more meat, fish and seafood, the wealthier you are and the more you are respecting your guests, of course.
But weddings are special occasions. What about the daily meals?
The other night, John stayed for dinner at our apartment. John is C.’s ex’s son and he is 9 years old. We prepared fried tomatoes and eggs, stir fried string beans and boiled white rice. The kid didn’t say anything in front of me, but later he asked C. why there was no meat in our dinner. He thought it was weird that a meal didn’t include any meat.
I am not sure if the campaign to encourage Chinese people to reduce their intake of meat will be successful, but I do believe Chinese currently eat too much meat (and I say this being myself a meat eater). It shouldn’t be a problem to avoid eating meat for at least one or two days every week. For that, many restaurants and company cafeterias would also need to adjust their menus and include more vegetarian options.