Flexi Food Fun –

Flexitarian Bristols’ First Food Workshops

The first blog of 2016 has to include a big New Year thank you to Artful Futures and the Bristol Good Food Tour (BGFT) who in December helped to create (and fund) the first two Flexitarian Bristol food workshops: “Brilliant Bean” and “Feel Good Food”.

How It Happened

The Bristol Good Food Tour was funded by Bristol Green Capital 2015 to promote healthy eating and empower people to cook food with a lower environmental footprint. So, throughout 2015 the BGFT funded events and cookery demonstrations across the city, showing how easy and affordable it is to cook delicious and nutritious meals that don’t cost the earth.

BUT with the end of the year fast approaching the BGFT knew that for the project to have a legacy the great work needed to continue in 2016. In November they challenged Flexitarian Bristol to develop two workshops, accompanying creative materials and pilot them – all before Christmas!!

Luckily for us one of Flexitarian Bristols many great volunteers, Miriam, runs her own business developing educational workshops and creating bespoke creat
ive materials for people of all ages. A few conversations and a bit….okay…. a whole lot of experimental cooking later and we had two fantastic workshops.

Brilliant Bean – Parson Street Primary School

On 2 December 2015, together with DSC_1359 (1)Artful Futures, we took the Brilliant Bean workshop to Fernando’s After School Club at Parson St Primary School. All the children, aged between 4 and 9, got hands-on making their own healthy snacks. Traffic Light hummus: a tasty trio of beetroot, carrot and chickpea dips were spread and a variety of vegetable shapes were used to create colourful tasty faces.

The second snack was our special ‘Snowball Surprise’! A recipe for fruity chocolatey truffles rolled in desiccated coconut contained a special ingredient… KIDNEY BEANS! No-one could believe these delicious snacks had a pulse. They then used them to build snowmen, which went down a treat.

“The snowman was yummy!” Finn, aged 4

“Wow! An amazing workshop – children were very engaged and loved being creative with food. Please come again! :-)” Miss Read

Feel Good Food – Barnardos, Whithywood

On 10th December, together with Artful Futures, we ran the “Feel Good Food” workshop in partnership with Barnardo’s in Withywood. A group of Barnardo’s staff, parents and children aged 8–14 came together to prepare a healthy meal from start to finish. They learnt basic cooking skills; celebrated vegetables, pulses and healthy eating through preparing and eating a delicious mixed bean stew! Everyone, staff included, had a great social food experience and the fact that it was fun and hands on meant that people were genuinely empowered to feed their bodies and minds with healthy foods that have a low environmental footprint.

I had fun making the food. The food was very tasty and easy to do at home” Son and mum

Thank you very much. I really enjoyed today, now I feel confident to cook with my mum and family” Child

Amazing facilitators, excellent with the families” Barnardos staff member

2016 is the United Nations year of the pulse so watch this space for news of pulsating Flexitarian Bristol workshops near you and if you want to get involved or host a workshop GET IN TOUCH!!

Happy New Year

What to do without cheese?

Four ways to hurdle the cheese hump

I’ve been an occasional cheese binger — using infrequent forays to Southville Market to load up on chunks and truckles and stuff myself into oblivion on a Sunday afternoon. For others like my long-time vegetarian friend, cheese has been a handy source of protein that’s insidiously sneaked its way into every other meal and is starting to outstay its welcome.

For all of us wanting to give dairy products the swerve in favour of a more plant-based diet there are lots of colourful concoctions to explore, but what about those dishes and times that just need something yellow, melty and tangy?

Sneaky cheese board invaders

For those that only occasionally indulge, the magic of Christmas (or any family gathering)  can lead to feverish binging at buffet tables. The stinkiest bishops, bolshiest stiltons, and inexplicable but ever festive wensleydale with cranberries lead you into a trance-like state where you’re soon lying on a sofa clutching your stomach, face smeared with chutney. But no more cheese sweats. Now there are an ever-improving array of non-dairy cheeses that you can slip on to the board and take part in the usual gluttony with minimal questioning from loved ones. And let’s face it — it’s all about the carbs and condiments anyway.

Local culture without mouldy cultures

In Somerset it’s hard to avoid the message that it’s good to gorge on cheddar, especially when washed down with scrumpy.  When travelling further afield cheese can provide a cheap way of trying out the food of other cultures: munching on manchego in Madrid, coating your tongue in camembert in Calais and feeling the mozzarella from a margherita melt down your chin in Naples. While some of our friends across the water may be yet to embrace Bristol’s growing flexi approach to food, they’ve been mastering delectable veggie dishes and street food for eons. If you look, you shall find…

Pizza with the best bits left in

The doughy round disc slathered in tomato puree just wouldn’t be the same without a melting pool of yellow stuff … would it? Dairy-free cheese has got this covered (‘scuse the pun) with a variety of brands providing stuff that will melt and hold as many veggies, chillis and herbs that you can stick on top. Keep your eyes peeled in supermarket ‘free from’ sections, head to your local health food store and check out The Better Food Company. The joy of pizza can be the lazy indulgence of ordering it in — continue one of life’s pleasures with the organic offerings of Pepenero Italian Fast Food & Pizzeria. If you’re after a cheap eat-out then head to Planet Pizza on Gloucester Road.

Comfort on the couch

Mid-week blues, rainy nights and hangover Sundays: these are the perfect conditions for hunkering down at home in your loosest pajama bottoms and and tucking into something soothing and stodgy. How about going the extra mile with ‘cheese’ on toast or a grilled sarnie. If you’re feeding friends and family then Jamie Oliver’s carby feast or a luxury lasagne will leave them stuffed. For exploring more fancy-pants dairy free delicacies at home, recommended recipe books include Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese — check out her recipe for fondue.

Have these ideas helped your need for cheese? Share and tell @FlexiBristol

Flexitarian Bristol and Street Goat

Common cause between the flexitarian movement and a movement to bring livestock into the city?

Lynne Davis of Street Goat thinks relating to the animals we eat could motivate the transition to flexitarian diets. Street Goat is a pioneering Bristol project currently raising funds to enable community goat keeping in the heart of our city.

Flexitarianism has what it takes to be a popular movement. It’s not prescriptive. It doesn’t condemn you for your choices. It is a positive encouragement to change our behaviour with compelling arguments as to why this is for the betterment of ourselves and our planet. With time this could be a movement that grows into the mainstream. For now, it is still at the fringes.

Perhaps this is in part because it is too easy to eat a lot of meat and dairy. The fabric of our fast paced culture is woven around convenient sandwiches and drunken kebabs. Food is something to grab and go. It is a rational desire for simple energy, or perhaps an emotional plaster. To choose to eat less and better we need to notice the times we cave to convenience. It takes both desire and will power, rational and emotional motivations. And while the body of evidence making the case for Flexitarianism is compelling, emotionally it is hard to join the dots.

It is highly convenient for industrial agriculture that we never see the animals that produce our meat and dairy. We merely see row after row of perfectly packaged produce. We see convenient labelling with pictures of smiling farmers and joyous animals. We see images that guide our emotional engagement, showing us the world we love to believe we live in. We don’t see images of caged pigs and poultry, farmers struggling to pay bills and mega-dairy complexes in which the cows never go outside. Combine that with a taste for cheese and chorizo and that our busy lives justify the need for convenience and it seems probable that more often than not the compelling rational for Flexitarianism will be easily ignored. Emotionally, we remain alienated.

One of the ideas behind Street Goat is to offer a direct alternative to this alienation. Would the experience of buying milk and cheese be different when you milk a goat yourself? Suddenly the stories you’ve heard of mega-dairies and caged animals are relevant, relatable to your friends, your goats. With one hand you actively take responsibility for creating a great life for your animals. How could you actively impose cruelty on other animals with the other? Suddenly the animals that produce our food are part of our everyday life, something we think about every day. We are the farmers that know how hard it is to balance the books. And we know how many days milk go into one block of cheese. Perhaps we experience the weight of sending our animals to slaughter, we feel the gravity of the nature of this relationship. Street Goat aims to make this relationship tangible, one that you feel in your heart, one that you can’t forget next time you think about buying a bacon roll from the services because you didn’t wake up in time to make breakfast. This relationship speaks loudly. It is a beautiful experience. One so profound that maybe, just maybe, it might play a part in changing behaviours.

Flexitarianism is about changing our behaviour and Street Goat is Flexitarian. Street Goat doesn’t talk about how much meat and dairy a person can eat. Instead, Street Goat aims to bring meat and dairy closer to home. Flexitarianism very effectively gives us the rational for eating less and better meat. Street Goat gives the emotional desire.

Street Goat’s crowd funding campaign ends on Christmas eve – let’s help them bring small-scale, well loved animal keeping to the city!

 

The Impact of Cheese

The Impact of Cheesecheeses

Hello, I’m Finlay – an ex-full-time carnivore, recently turned Flexitarian.

As somebody that’s interested (I assume) in a flexitarian diet, I imagine you’re already well aware of the multi-faceted benefits of reducing meat consumption. Personally, the sole fact that removing meat from my diet could reduce my personal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by over a third [1] was reason enough for me to give meat reduction a bash.

I have a passion for cooking and this transition was surprisingly easy. In fact, it invigorated me in the kitchen as I sought out and trialled novel recipes with a new found spring in my spatula.

I swapped my regular weekday chicken salad lunches for Mediterranean feta, beetroot and houmous affairs and traded my evening meals of meat-based curries and middle-eastern dishes for more vibrant, multi-dimensional vegetable alternatives.

However, after a few weeks something began to catch my attention – I had seemingly replaced my old reliance on meat with a new reliance on cheese at the core of many of my dishes. On reflection, this was not a huge surprise. Cheese is a flavoursome protein source and an often salty, fatty, savoury alternative to centre a dish around. For a novice meat-free cook, this was an obvious path to take. But how does it weigh up against meat?

Could replacing meat with cheese cancel out the benefits of a flexitarian diet?

I mentioned GHG emissions earlier but I’d also hoped that my new dietary choice would be having a positive impact on:

  • Personal health
  • Animal welfare
  • Land, water, pesticide and energy use
  • Environmental soil, water and air pollution

Was this really the case?

As I began to do some research, it quickly became clear that such questions were not only complex, but that online articles covering this subject were few and far between. In essence, for a non-scientific member of the public, such information is not readily available or accessible.

While recognising the many additional impacts detailed above, for simplification, I will focus on the climate change impact here i.e. the GHG emissions associated with consuming cheese.

One, well presented source is the ‘Meat Eater’s Guide’ produced by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) [2]. This report found that 13.5 kilograms (kg) of Carbon Dioxide equivalents (CO2e) were produced per kg of cheese consumed. This is compared to 39 kg for lamb, 27 kg for beef, 12 kg for pork and farmed fish (salmon), 7kg for chicken and 5kg for eggs [2].

Figure 1: Full Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables [2]

green_house_proteins graph

For comparison, a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the average US production of cheddar generated 8.4 kg CO2e per kg of cheese [3]. Despite this value being lower, it’s interesting to note that it’s still higher than chicken!

Why are these figures so high?

The answer stems from the same reason that lamb and beef consumption ranks so highly. Cows (and sheep) are ruminant mammals that possess four compartments in their stomachs. These are used to continually regurgitate food and break it down using microbes located in one of the compartments known as the ‘rumen’. These microbes produce methane called ‘enteric methane’ which is then expelled to the atmosphere – mostly through burping! Importantly, Methane (CH4) has about 25 times the global warming potential of CO2 [3].

While enteric methane from rumen is the major source of GHG emissions from beef and dairy farming, the methane emitted from manure also contributes, as does Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emitted during the laying of fertilizer or manure on fields to grow feed for the cattle.  N2O has about 300 times the global warming potential of CO2. While processing, packaging, transport and wastage also have an effect on the lifecycle assessment of cheese; it is interesting to note that over 90% of GHG emissions from cheese are attributed to the milk production stage [3].

For environmentally minded cheese lovers, these findings make for dismal reading. Even by sourcing locally and minimising waste in the kitchen – it appears cheese consumption is doomed to leave a large carbon footprint on the planet.

Does the type of cheese matter?

Another study which directly investigated the impact of cheddar and mozzarella found that a kg of cheddar was responsible for 8.6 kg CO2e compared to 7.28 kg CO2e from mozzarella [4]. This demonstrates that the emissions related to different types of cheeses can vary significantly.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the cheese has been aged, the higher its environmental impact, due to the greater energy requirement. Likewise, if a cheese is hard, it will likely have required more milk to produce, have been aged for longer and required additional cooking – all contributing to increased GHG emissions. As such, young, soft cheeses such as cottage, feta, chèvre, brie, camembert and mozzarella are more environmentally friendly while older, harder cheeses such as extra mature cheddar or parmesan will be worse [5].

It’s also worth mentioning a potentially misleading aspect of the studies I have cited so far: the values of kg CO2e calculated are per kg of produce and do not account for nutritional density of the food. For example, a chicken breast contains around 18% protein, beef 36%, pork 30% and eggs 13% [6]. Compare this to the 42% protein present in parmesan, 28-32% in mozzarella, 25% in Edam and 20% in Camembert [7], and it’s clear the kg CO2e figures are not a totally fair comparison. A small amount of cheese can go a considerable distance.

With this in mind, it’s worth concluding that the best way to minimise your carbon footprint is clearly to minimise your consumption of cheese where possible. In terms of GHG emissions, cheese should be treated as you would chicken or pork – replacing such meat with an equivalent amount of cheese can do more harm than good. However, when cheese is eaten, opt for younger, softer cheese and try to moderate the amount included when preparing a dish. Not only will this be kinder to the planet but for health reasons, will limit the amount of saturated fat consumed and additionally, both nutritionally and flavour-wise, a little cheese goes a long way.

 

 

[1] C. Hoolohan, et al., 2013. “Mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions embodied in food through realistic consumer choices”. Energy Policy 63, 1065-1074. Link

[2] K. Hamerschlag, 2011. “Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change + Health”. Environmental Working Group. Online: Link

[3] H. Aguirre-Villegas, et al., 2011. “Sustainable Cheese Production: Understand the Carbon Footprint of Cheese”. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Link

[4] D. Kim, et al., 2013. “Life cycle assessment of cheese and whey production in the USA”. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 18, 1019–1035. Link

[5]N. Rastogi, 2009. “Soft Cheese for a Clean Planet. A foodie’s guide to planet-friendly fromage.” Slate. Online: Link

[6]HealthAliciousNess. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Protein (Ranked by Protein/Calorie Ratios)”. Online: Link

[7] HealthAliciousNess. “36 Cheeses Highest in Protein”. Online: Link

Autumn Newsletter

Flexitarian Bristol Autumn Newsletter

Since our launch in June we’ve been supporting the Flexitarian expansion, with groups in Wells and the University of Bristol starting this month! We’ve also made a light hearted minute introduction to ‘flexitarian’ video and been developing our first projects around schools outreach and the ‘Flexitarian Award’ – which are now ready to be rolled out across the city. Read on, wing us an email and join us if you have the appetite to get stuck in…

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New Food Trend Alert! Flexitarianism grows in Bristol

harbourside launch picture narrow

By mdisalvo, Bristol Post  |   June 17, 2015

New Food Trend Alert! Flexitarianism grows in Bristol

Most people have heard of vegetarians, vegans and maybe even pescetarians. But a new dietary trend is now emerging, and Bristol is leading the way.

Enter flexitarianism – one of the fastest growing movements in the UK – where adherents have a mostly plant-based diet but include animal products when they want.

This evening, as part of Big Green Week, the Flexitarian Bristol campaign group launched a campaign to get people in the city to eat less meat.

Rosa van Kesteren, the coordinator for Flexitarian Bristol, said: “We just want to start conversations about food. Meat is currently the elephant in the room. We want to start talking about eating less meat – because it is healthier, environmentally friendly, more interesting and fun – in a way that is different.”

Read the rest of this article on the Bristol Post website.

Our launch also featured in Bristol 24/7 and Destination Bristol.

Vegan Friend, Veggie Boyfriend But You Eat Meat… Where To Go For Dinner?!

Vegan Friend, Veggie Boyfriend But You Eat Meat… Where To Go For Dinner?!

flexitarian_A_v04_smallWelcome to the flexifeastblog.com where you can follow our exciting journey to make Bristol the first Flexitarian City in the UK.

We’re conscious about the quality and quantity of meat we eat; think local, high welfare animals that are farmed at a high standard in a more ethical way. If we reduce the amount of meat we consume we’ll have more land for beautiful natural spaces, increase our wildlife and create a greener, better Bristol.

We’ve been reviewing restaurants and cafe’s to see who’s flexi-friendly and caters for vegans, veggies and tasty local meat eaters alike without making it a big deal. They just do it! You and your friends and family can go to our Flexi-Awarded places without hassle, knowing you’ll all be well fed. So keep your eyes peeled for this sign:

Flexitarian Bristol Logo FLAT2translucent

Go to flexibristol.org and click on the map to discover where to go for a flexi-feast.

Big thanks to Thali Cafe, Chris at Rare Butcher and Jamie at No.1 Harboursidefor contributing to our Flexi-Bristol documentary and sharing their passions for food and the environment. We can’t wait to share it with you so watch this space.

Flexitarian Bristol Launch!

On 17th of June, 6-8.30pm we will be launching Flexitarian Bristol as part of Bristol’s Big Green Week.

Join us at  No 1 Harbourside, one of our top Flexitarian Restaurants, to enjoy a fine selection of inspiring guests, mini-talks and comedy, complimented by an affordable flexitarian menu. This is where we start to build a local movement around less and better meat: improving health, building a sustainable future and supporting local high welfare farmers.

Come down and talk to us! 

Our 10 minute small wonder talks will include:

  • Why a Flexitarian City?
  • Food and trust
  • Meat as a gender issue
  • Tackling a thorny issue: my Part-Time Carnivore journey
  • Telling a positive story about good meat

Topped off with Food Porn slam poetry! What’s not to like?