Eating meat again
March 31, 2006 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to start eating meat again.

I recently realized that I no longer know why I'm a vegetarian. A part of it's out of self-control, but most of the reason is that, after 8 years, eating meat just no longer seems like an option. However, I'd like this to change.

I'm a pescatarian, so I already eat seafood regularly. Should chicken be my next step? How slow should I take it (ie, meals per week) so that my body has time to adjust without going crazy? Anything else I should know or be wary of? I haven't eaten meat since I was 12, so this all seems very foreign to me.
posted by hopeless romantique to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Start slow.
I'd go chicken, pork, beef.
Start out with less fatty cuts. Cut the skin of your chicken, don't eat the pork fat, etc.
Work your way up. If you go out today and eat a huge steak, you'll never eat meat again. So maybe you oughtta just do that.

I'd also suggest that one of the best ways to tune yourself in to what you are eating is to hunt. Even if just once.
You'll either not eat meat again, decide to avoid factory farmed flesh, or appreciate the guys and gals who slaughter and butcher your meal a lot more than you do already.

Or maybe you'll get squicked out by guns. Who nows. Anyway, take it slow.
posted by Seamus at 8:49 AM on March 31, 2006

You can go slow, but listen to your body for more specifics.

I went back after 7 years, while I was at college, so I ended up eating toast with one slice of roast beef every other day. Then stir fry with mostly veggies and some chicken. And then fish. Kind of backwards if you think of the meats on a light-heavy spectrum. I also ate a lot of yogurt for the acidophilus. YMMV, but that's how I did it.

If you have the options, I find that I feel better if I eat organic/no antibiotic meat instead of regular; I don't know if that's a mental better or a physical better, but that's my (more health than moral) compromise.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:00 AM on March 31, 2006

I'd start with bits of chicken that are steamed or baked and work up from there.
posted by mikeh at 9:13 AM on March 31, 2006

When I went back to eating meat after about 15 years as a vegetarian, my body had no trouble with it. I started with beef, actually (I was visiting my girlfriend's parents cattle ranch in Zambia, and it seemed the polite thing to do). For a long time I didn't eat any chicken, but that was the most "animal-like" when it was on my plate, and that bothered me.

My advice would be to pay attention to how your body reacts to the food you eat, but don't worry it too much. For me it was really no adjustment at all, other than having to learn how to deal with more choices on restaurant menus.
posted by alms at 9:14 AM on March 31, 2006

Maybe start with free-range, organic chicken breast fillets and prepare yourself a stir-fry. I'm a life-long omnivore but when it comes to meat I'm always a lot happier eating it when I know exactly what part of the animal I'm consuming and that it's been raised/slaughtered in as natural and humane way as possible. Sometimes I'll get a take-away or have a meal out and come across a lump of gristle/cartilage/valve/God-knows-what, and that always makes me gag.

Although I will eat pork scratchings of indeterminate origin. I'm just a big bundle of contradictions.
posted by boosh at 9:14 AM on March 31, 2006

Data point: my body had no issue adjusting from 10 years of vegetarianism to a diet that includes meat with no gradual transition. Then again, during the change my diet had and still has plenty of dietary fiber.
posted by plinth at 9:16 AM on March 31, 2006

Some good advice here.
posted by JanetLand at 9:23 AM on March 31, 2006

I was a vegetarian for about 8-9 years. I decided to eat meat again, and one night ate...let's just say a very large quantity of bacon. Ok, I ate a pound of bacon. I fully expected to puke and whatnot, but it had no ill effects whatsoever. Which is odd, because you'd think eating a pound of bacon by yourself would make anyone sick. Long story short, everyone's body is different, but I don't think you have to start as small as you might imagine.
posted by Doug at 9:24 AM on March 31, 2006

Heh. Go for it.
As a lifelong vegetarian, I don't have any direct advice for you, but I've known a lot of people who have gone back. Things that helped— High quality food. McDonalds seems to be a recipe for vomiting, but thin cuts of decent meat seemed to go down fine. Also, soups and stews seem to halt the brunt. The most common thing I've heard about is evil smelling shit, and a lot of gas. Which is weird, because vegetarians are supposed to get more gas in general. A couple folks started back with jerky, and that seemed to help a lot. I've never had jerky, but it seems like a counter-intuitive beginning. It may be because it's not a huge quantity and because you have to chew it a lot, it digests easier. If you're already at fish, you may want to try things like swordfish, which is a "meatier" cut of fish.
Also, don't listen to people (especially vegans) who might rag on you for this. It's your choice, and who knows, you might become a veggie again. There are plenty of reasons not to eat meat, but I assume that you can find those on your own. At worst, you'll be a carnivore who's more in touch with the ethical and practical considerations around your diet, which isn't such a bad thing.
posted by klangklangston at 9:28 AM on March 31, 2006

When I gave up being vegetarian after four years, I was fine - and I hit the meat pretty hard. The only weird thing was a strong awareness of having harder matter in my gut that I was used to. It can't do any harm to start slow, but I would suggest that you try not to worry about it too much - you risk making yourself feel queasy independently of any actual effect of the food on your body.
posted by teleskiving at 9:47 AM on March 31, 2006

as someone who was a vegetarian for 2 years and then just broke down one day and had a bacon double cheese burger for one meal and a meat stuffed calzone for the next...don't do it that way. I was in bed for a week.
i've since decided that veggie was for me and have been back off of meat for 4 years now...but klangklangston points out...this is your decision and don't let others try to make it for you.
posted by nadawi at 9:48 AM on March 31, 2006

Was raised vegetarian (meat = anything with eyes, eggs fine), though without any dogma. Started eating meat last year after 25 years of not doing so, mostly out of convenience (graduate student). Absolutely no transition period - had some smoked salmon and went from there. What I find interesting is that: 1) meat = much more chewing; 2) meat doesn't necessarily taste good and I do not like many things - most fish, for instance, reminds me of swallowing seawater and unless it's smoked or heavily peppered it's not appetizing. Mostly feh on hamburgers and most white meat (chicken, turkey, ostrich) tastes like tofu with more texture. Steak, reindeer/venison and catfish are favorites, as is smoked salmon and swordfish/tuna steaks. My 'gut' feeling: if you are already eating fish and enjoying that, the 'transition' to eating 'meat' is entirely mental and determined by your tastebuds.

But more than anything, I love that I can heat something 3 minutes on each side on a skillet (with some onions/pepper/vegetables in the same pan) and eat it and have all my protein and do my dishes and be done in like 15 mins. tops without eating poorly.

I've found that meat is much cheaper than its analogues - I moved from the city (NYC) to the suburbs (Cambridge, MA) and shop at a grocery store rather than a bodega now... I generally buy meat (not seafood) that has $1-3 off coupons + the chain's saver card discount and end up paying $1-$1.50 a lb. and substantially less for a meal this way (I don't like to eat rice and eat grains sparingly - was/am very much a tofu and vegetables/salad person). For the most part, I can't tell the difference between a good piece of meat and a 'bad' one - the hierarchy of meat cuts and their flavor still doesn't make sense to me and I buy based on price.
posted by cottoncandyhammer at 10:00 AM on March 31, 2006

I was a "fiscal vegetarian" for years. At home it was simply cheaper to eat tofu and veggies than cook a roast. But I never avoided meat, say at a restaurant (and especially a good filet if my father was paying -grin).

My wife has been a vegetarian so I went a long with that. In the 12 years we've been married a piece of red meat has never crossed our kitchen door. When we had kids we started eating chicken.

Whenever I do eat a piece of red meat, tho, I feel a bit off the next day. Not sick but not myself. It lasts one day. This doesn't happen with chicken.

Now my oldest daughter (age 9) is deciding on her own whether she'll be a vegetarian. My youngest (age 8) would live on chicken nuggets with catsup if she could.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:02 AM on March 31, 2006

My formerly veggie friend says she got fed up one day and went out and had a huge greasy bar cheeseburger and says she didn't have any issues. I bet she took a righteous dump, though.
posted by cellphone at 10:03 AM on March 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

I just did this a month ago (also a former pescatarian). No issues, and honestly I don't believe there are strictly physiological consequences to re-introducing meat. If you're revolted by what you're eating, sure, you'll probably get sick, so let your appetite guide you.
posted by nev at 10:11 AM on March 31, 2006

do you have access to hunted animals? i have been veg since i was 11, i'm 22 now. a few months ago i went through what you are going through. i live in rural arkansas, and my father hunts deer. i tried one piece of cooked venison to start with. turns out, it didn't do for me what i thought it would, but that's irrelevant. the reason i chose venison is because i know everything that happened to the meat between the time it was killed and the time it went into my mouth. no surprises. i'd recommend that if it's possible. if it's not, i support the free-range organic idea.
posted by starbaby at 10:17 AM on March 31, 2006

After 6-7 vegetarian years, I too just jumped back into eating meat during a trip to Kenya. I was a little (read: very), um, foul for a while and had some bad stomach aches and more than one "righteous dump" along the way, but got over it in a couple of months. Assuming you won't be eating goat from your dad's farm, I think you might be a little better off.
posted by youarenothere at 10:34 AM on March 31, 2006

I'm a pescatarian, so I already eat seafood regularly.

I would guess that your body is already used to eating meat as you have been eating seafood (meat) on a regular basis.
posted by Arqa at 11:05 AM on March 31, 2006

I agree with Arqa. I've always considered the distinction between fish and other meats to be arbitrary. It's all flesh.
posted by subgenius at 11:33 AM on March 31, 2006

After being veg. for 5 years I had trouble with poultry at first, but beef was OK. Wonder if that's something to do with the antibiotics they use in chicken, or perhaps I was unlucky and got an undercooked piece. I felt pretty bad for a week or two, then things got back to normal. Anyway, I'd recommend starting with thoroughly cooked beef and move on from there.
posted by dudeman at 12:02 PM on March 31, 2006

I was a vegetarian for almost 18 years, and last year I began eating very small (think fingernail-sized) pieces of my friends' dinners. I started small not because I thought it would mess with my system, but because more than that made me start thinking too much... Anyway, a few months ago, I ate a large (hand-size) piece of steak and had no problems at all. Your body does not "forget" how to eat meat, and unless you were a very stringent vegan, there have been bits of animal proteins in your food quite regularly. Have fun and eat some steak! (I would probably also stick with klangklangston's advice and eat high quality meat first.)
posted by rmless at 12:11 PM on March 31, 2006

I'll chime in and agree with ALMS et all. I am a vegetarian and I have seen many friends move out of it. The reactions their bodies had were the gamut from no problem eating steak the first time to having to reintroduce foods one at at time like you do with a baby. Just proceed awarely and you should be fine.
posted by juggler at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2006

I was veggie for about 7 years then vegan for 2 years and caved in and ate a full english breakfast. Sausage, bacon, black pudding. No problems whatever. Apart from the obvious putting on shitloads of weight, after I remembered how good meat actually tastes.
posted by handee at 3:09 AM on April 1, 2006

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