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EDDIE Gillanders: Meat versus Vegan debate rages on

By Eddie Gillanders

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WHILE beef producers are fighting a constant battle to secure realistic prices for their product, and the restaurants of celebrity chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal continue to lose money, one new steak restaurant in London is raking in the profits by charging the rich and famous exorbitant prices for their top-of-the range steaks.

The debate between Vegans and Meat-eaters is an interesting one.
The debate between Vegans and Meat-eaters is an interesting one.

The Nusr-ET steak house in Knightsbridge, opened last September and one of 22 restaurants around the world owned by flamboyant Turkish-born butcher, Nusret Gokce (aka Salt Brae), claims to have made a pre-tax profit of £4.6 million on sales of £7 million in its first three months.

Opening offers included a tomahawk steak covered in flakes of 24-carat gold at £850 but has now settled for a top price of £630 for a rib-eye steak. Diners have included footballers, David Beckham and Lionel Messi, model Naomi Campbell and actor Jason Statham.

However, the restaurant has been panned by some critics and is apparently ranked only 16,978 of 17,465 London restaurants on Trip Advisor.

Most will see these prices as disgusting and another example of the ill-pairted world we live in at a time when many are struggling to provide a basic diet for their families as food and energy prices soar, but shows what effective marketing can achieve.

It also comes at a time when the importance of meat in a balanced diet is being increasingly recognised, despite the nonsense of a group calling itself People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) calling for the Pork Pie Roundabout in Leicester to be renamed Vegan Pie Roundabout.

The word vegan was coined in Leicester in 1944 by Donald Watson. But Leicester mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, has dismissed the idea as “pie in the sky”.

On a more serious note, scientists at Leeds University have found that middle-aged women who are vegetarians are more likely to break a hip than their meat-eating peers. They can struggle to get enough nutrients into their body which can lead to weaker muscles and bones. A study of 26,000 women aged 35-69 over 20 years has shown that women are a third more at risk of a hip fracture if they are vegetarian.

“This study is an important step in understanding the potential risk plant-based diets could present over the long-term,” said Prof Janet Cade, co-author of the report.

A new book, provokingly entitled, The Great Plant-Based Con, by Jayne Buxton, who gained notoriety in the 1990s with her previous book exposing the myths surrounding working “Supermothers”, claims eating a plant-only diet will do nothing to improve your health or save the planet.

Anxious meat eaters are being brainwashed, she says, by the “fashionable consensus” that a plant-based diet is better for you and her book aims to correct what she sees as misleading claims about the personal and environmental benefits of veganism.

Ultra-processed plant-based foods are not healthier, she insists, pointing out that nut milks, vegan cheese, fake meats and other vegan substitutes are nutritionally inferior to wholefoods because they are depleted in fibre, macronutrients and bioactive compounds.

However, she doesn’t see eating vegan wholefoods, such as fruit and vegetables, providing the answer as their vitamin content is overstated relative to animal-sourced foods.

She dismisses the “five-a-day” slogan as no more than a marketing campaign promoting foods which should not be placed on a “nutrition pedestal”.

She also makes the point that farmers and the vital food they produce are being vilified for greenhouse gas emissions, while government data shows that UK livestock (i.e. burping cows) account for only 5% of total emissions while transport and energy supply are the real “baddies” accounting for more than half of all emissions.

So what about the ethics of killing and eating animals? She quotes an American farmer in a Netflix documentary who said growing 214 acres of stone fruit and avocados on his farm required him to kill at least 35-40,000 gophers a year. “Is the life of a cow worth more than the life of a gopher,” he asked.

Buxton concludes there is no environmentally perfect way to eat so we should not dive into plant-based food in blind panic. Remember what your mother told you as a child: “A little bit of everything will do you good.”

Former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who as a Hindu doesn’t eat meat, has also pledged support for beef production in his bid to become Prime Minister.

In a pitch to rural areas, Mr Sunak promises the “most significant reforms to farming in half a century”, with new targets for food production, regulations to prevent the re-wilding of high-quality farmland and funding to produce local produce, including meat”.

However, if opinion polls are right it won’t be Sunak in 10 Downing Street but Liz Truss who, despite having worked for the NFU in England, didn’t particularly shine during her period as rural affairs minister.

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