How to eat less meat: 5 money-savvy, planet-friendly tips


Happy pigs relaxing in the dirt at Urban Digs Farm. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

1. Due diligence

Whatever restaurants you eat at or grocery stores you shop from, and whatever you currently have on hand at home, ask questions.

Flip over the package, read the labels, look up websites, email the farmer, call restaurants, ask the butcher – and then double check what you’ve discovered.

One of the greatest disappointments of my life was to learn that so much of what we’re lead to believe, when it comes to what we consume, isn’t true.

In many cases, as I’ve done my research, the omissions and deceits have left me gobsmacked. Being lied to makes me furious.

When I became a food writer, I had the great privilege of interviewing some of Canada’s best chefs, chefs who deeply care about animal welfare and personally visit the farms they source meat from.

This made me wonder where the meat I bought came from, and what kind of lives the animals I was eating had had.

So I started asking questions, and one of the first butchers I spoke to, at a large chain grocer, leaned in and quietly said: “I wouldn’t eat any of the meat we sell here.” Why? The inventory was almost entirely, if not totally, factory farmed.

The more I learn about factory farming, as a journalist and conscious consumer, the more I uncover untold horrors of widespread and unconscionable animal abuse.

I encourage you to look beyond the sterile packaging that keeps us disconnected from the whole story, and do your best to trace it back to the beginning.

A great resource is Sonia Faruqi's new book, Project Animal Farm, a beautifully-written, captivating, well-researched, objective account of animal agriculture.

Money is energy, spend it wisely.

2. Support the good guys


Everybody wants a belly rub from Urban Digs Farm owners Julia Smith and Ludo Ferrari. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

When you begin your journey down the rabbit hole, as I did when I forced myself to watch incredibly-uncomfortable, heart-wrenchingly-awful undercover videos of factory farms – many of them “local” in our own British Columbian and Canadian backyards – it may shake you to your core.

How could we be deceived so greatly? How could anyone stand for this behaviour? How could anyone carry out this behaviour? How has this become the status quo? How has our food system become so broken and heartless and invisible?

After my sobs subsided and my tears were wiped away, I transformed my rage to fuel a mission of discovery.

Surely there are good choices if you choose to consume animal products? There must be compassionate farmers that rub their pigs’ bellies and scratch their cows behind the ears?

There are.

I joined forces with my dear friend, social media darling (could her Instagrams be any more drool-worthy or inspiring?!) and food reporter Erin Ireland to embark on a local farm tour.

For me, two highlights thus far have been Urban Digs Farm and Sumas Mountain Farms.

Urban Digs Farm is owned and run by Julia Smith and Ludo Ferrari and located in the rich a fertile soil of south Burnaby – with a new second location in the Nicola Valley near Merrit, BC – where they raise heritage pigs (that are carbon positive!), and have partnered with like-minded farms to offer chicken, eggs, beef, lamb and vegetables at their weekly farmgate market and online store (weekly delivery is available across the Lower Mainland).

I subscribe to their Beasty Box and get a selection of beef, chicken and pork delivered right to my door.

I wrote a blog post about Urban Digs’ amazing farm and how their animals are raised – check it out here.

And check out my feature – here – on Urban Digs Farm for Montecristo magazine.


Sumas Mountain Farms' cows graze on a diet of 100-percent grass. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

Sumas Mountain Farms, near Abbotsford, is owned and run by Trevor and Kelly Newton who raise cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens on their idyllic family farm.

Erin wrote a blog post about their lovely farm, their farming practices, and how to buy their products – check it out here.

Do you know of an awesome local farm that deserves a gold star for animal welfare? Please share!

3. Chop it up


Just a couple of Urban Digs' spicy Italian sausages, squeezed out of their casings, cooked with mushrooms, onions and garlic, mixed with slow-roasted tomatoes and penne, and served on a bed of arugula, made for an absolutely delicious, company-worthy, dinner for six. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

When you stop eating cheap meat and invest in the good stuff, you might be nervous about the cost. Heck, you might be downright mad about the cost. But everything has a cost, and cheap meat means animal cruelty, plain and simple.

But here’s the thing: we don’t need to eat half a chicken or three racks of ribs or a 36-ounce steak in one sitting! Our bodies just don’t need that much.

Harvard Medical School suggests the “Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.”

For a 45-kilogram (100-pound) adult that works out to around 36 grams of protein per day, 50 grams for a 68-kilogram (150-pound) adult, or 72 grams for a 90-kilogram (200-pound) adult.

But “don’t read ‘get more protein’ as ‘eat more meat,’” says a post on the Harvard Health Blog. “Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods – including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables.”

*** See bottom of post for awesome infographic on 50 sources of plant-based protein ***

What does it look like if you choose to get half your protein RDA from animals?

25 grams of protein (50% of protein RDA for 150-pound adult) ≅ 3.5 ounces ≅ 2/3 cup of beef, poultry, pork, fish, or 2.5 eggs.

Imagine 3.5 ounces as 3.5 shot glasses, or 2/3 cup fitting into the palm of your hand – for a whole day’s worth of meals – that’s not very much!

And getting a third of your protein RDA from animals would, obviously, be even less.

In my experience, when you’re making the switch to buying a little better and eating a little less, your eyeballs don’t agree with your tummy.

If you’re used to eating half a chicken, and all you see on your plate is a measly drumstick (≅ 2 ounces), you might squawk about being starved.

But if you carve up that drumstick into little pieces and pile those pieces on your plate, not only will your eyes think “this is enough food” your tummy will likely be happy too.

Nobody knows your body like you do. So play around with it, and eat what feels right to you. 

With this less-meat-method in mind, I’ve added more meals to my repertoire that work well with little pieces.

Instead of the classic roast chicken and potatoes, I’ll make a ton of delicious, rainbow-coloured vegetables, mix them with something starchy like potatoes, beans, lentils or rice, and sprinkle a handful of chopped meat on top.

Chili, stir-frys and pasta lend themselves well to garnishes of meat, too.

Have some awesome recipes that fit this bill in your repertoire? Please share!

And don’t forget to check out the awesome infographic on 50 sources of plant-based protein at the bottom of this post!

4. Don't waste a single scrap


One ounce of leftover steak shaved into tiny pieces equals a decadent breakfast hash of potatoes, onions, garlic and hot sauce, topped with a poached egg. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

You’ve made the shift, you’re investing in good-quality, ethically-raised meat, and you don’t want to waste a morsel!

Frittatas, breakfast hash and soups are great ways to use up leftover bits of meat.

Eat the skin, save the fat for cooking, and don’t forget about the bones!

All of the cool kids are making bone broth these days.

Lululemon’s assistant editor, Alicia-Rae Olafsson, breaks down the benefits of bone broth and shares an easy recipe:

What are your tips for not wasting leftovers? Thanks for sharing!

5. Become a master of plant-based cuisine


To-die-for, basil-and-sea-salt dusted, slow-roasted tomatoes. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr) 

In the wise words of author and journalist Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

If your plant-based repertoire is limited, you’re in luck, because there are so many incredible inspirations to draw from!

Erin Ireland is my guru when it comes to knock-your-socks-off plant-based recipes.

Check out her website,, follow her across social media at @ErinIreland,  and have a look at her recent blog post, My Favourite Blogs and Cookbooks For Plant-based Meal Ideas, for an awesome roundup of vegan cooking inspiration.

Certain international cuisines are seriously snazzy at plant-based cooking too! Head to the Google Machine and search for Indian, Mexican and Thai vegetarian recipes.

I’m taking a plant-based South Indian cooking workshop with Feed Life next week! Check out their upcoming workshops here:

Now, where to get the fixings for these veggie-licious feasts?

I get the bulk of my organically-grown vegetables from on a weekly basis through their Harvest Box, a selection of seasonal produce from local farms.

I love them so much that I’m a SPUD ambassador! Interested in checking them out? Use my promo code – CRVAN-ROSCAF – to get $20 off your first purchase of $50 or more!

Have a favourite plant-based recipe? I’d love to hear it!


#trulyethicalBC: Urban Digs Farm

The heritage breed pigs at Urban Digs Farm are fed a wholesome and almost entirely organic diet, and are free to roam around their large enclosure. 

*** Urban Digs Farm is now called Blue Sky Ranch‏! ***

Where does my food come from?

Becoming a food writer gave me a new lens through which to look at the food I was eating.

As a fitness professional for over a decade and the product of a stay-at-home mother who cooked all of our meals from scratch, I’ve always been interested in healthy nutrition, but learning the story behind the ingredients through meeting some of BC’s most incredible chefs has drastically changed the way I eat.

I used to think from the perspective of “protein” and “vegetables,” especially during my days as a personal trainer working in a gym where many of my colleagues subsided on such bland meals as poached chicken and steamed broccoli. I didn’t think beyond the shelves of my grocery store. I didn’t consider how the pristine chicken breasts and neatly stacked rows of vegetables made their way into my shopping cart.

Because I was so detached from the source of these products, I didn’t think about how the animals were treated, what chemicals had been sprayed on the vegetables, or how far the packages had travelled, and at what environmental cost, to arrive on my plate.


The ducks at Urban Digs Farm have the space to snuggle with each other, stretch out on their own, or splash around in their little pool. 

When I began to interview chefs and look closely at their menus, they highlighted their ingredients’ origins: Agassiz hazelnuts, North Arm Farm beets, Lois Lake steelhead, Maple Hill Farms chicken.

This made me think about my own ingredients’ origins when I was cooking at home. When I began asking questions, I often didn’t like what I discovered. In some cases, I was completely horrified.

I take full responsibility for my own ignorance but I was still very angry that many of the products I’d been buying, with deceptive marketing depicting nutritious, sun-ripened plants and happy, frolicking animals, were grown or raised under very shameful circumstances.

Empowered action

As I began to get really nosy and ask a lot of questions, I discovered the power I had to make informed choices and the influence that every dollar I spent carried. My mood changed from anger to empowerment. It became evident that a small army of compassionate and concerned businesses was rising and by buying their products I was helping them, in very small part, grow.

When I met Erin Ireland, a respected food reporter and owner of To Die For Fine Foods, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. This is a woman who oozes compassion and authenticity. A few years after we met, I heard her captivating Pecha Kucha talk (watch it below) and was very interested to hear we’d had a similar journey with the way we thought about and approached food.

During one of our beautiful nature jogs with our dogs, Effie (hers) and Charlie (mine), we hatched a plan to visit local farms to see with our own eyes how they operated. As both animal lovers and food reporters, we felt a strong pull to act and speak with authenticity and transparency. We wanted to be sure that the wonderful new restaurant we were sharing on social media, or writing about for local publications, was getting their ingredients from equally wonderful producers.

#trulyethicalBC adventure

So began our #trulyethicalBC adventure, a series of road trips to discover who’s doing great things in our community and share them with everyone we know and the reach of our combined media outlets.

Follow our #trulyethicalBC adventure on Twitter and Instagram (@erinireland and @lifedelish) and look for posts on our websites ( and

First stop: Urban Digs Farm

The pigs at Urban Digs Farm love getting a belly rub from owners Julia Smith and Ludo Ferrari.

If you follow Urban Digs Farm on Twitter (@UrbanDigsFarm), you’re treated to adorable images of their chickens foraging around the farmyard, ducks lounging in the sunshine or splashing in their pool, and pigs rooting around in the rich, peaty soil or having a nap in their cozy sheds.

We wanted to see these happy animals for ourselves so when owners Julia Smith and Ludo Ferrari invited us out for a visit we pulled on our gumboots, hopped in the car, and made our way to their beautiful little plot in South Burnaby.

It was a real privilege to spend nearly two hours with Julia and Ludo as they showed us some of the work required to raise animals with their fierce ethical conviction.

5,000 pounds of organic food diverted from landfill each week

Julia shows us some of the organic produce, brew mash, and yogurt they diverted from the landfill to feed their animals.

One of the first things that struck me was how they feed their animals. Firstly, it’s almost entirely organic feed. Every week they pick up over 5,000 pounds of mostly organic food from a nearby grocery store and brewery, diverting it from the landfill – even though it’s practically in perfect shape! I had no idea how much food waste occurs in the grocery business.

It sounds pretty great to get truckloads of organic food for free but the time spent in transit and on opening hundreds of packages is a huge time commitment. I also learned that organically-grown, ethically raised animals take at least twice as long to raise as factory farmed animals, so this commitment is magnified. Not to mention the time spent rubbing bellies, patting heads, and checking on each and every animal individually to make sure they’re thriving.

When we visited the farm, we checked in on the chickens and ducks on our way to see their beautiful, boisterous heritage pigs who were just finishing up a snack of organic yogurt, greens and brew mash – the nutritious leftovers from beer-making that would otherwise be thrown in the garbage. There were stacks and stacks of cases of 100-gram yogurt containers. Can you imagine how long it would take to open enough teeny tiny containers to feed over a dozen hungry, growing pigs?

Reducing carbon footprints

As Julia pointed out, this is a good way to raise animals – maybe we should only eat animals raised on (perfectly good) food waste, instead of growing feed that requires an additional carbon footprint.

The pigs at Urban Digs Farm not only have a net zero carbon footprint, they’re carbon positive! With their strong muzzles, built for rooting, they’ve pulled up entire fields of invasive quackgrass, preparing the fertile soil for nutritious vegetable gardens. The peat bog they’re located on is some of the best land in Canada, says Julia.

The pigs are allowed to carry out their natural, highly social behaviours, while they divert organic waste from the landfill, spare the cultivation of fields for feed crops, provide fertilizer from their manure, and do the job of heavy machinery by removing weeds and preparing the soil for nutrient-dense produce.

This, said Julia as she lovingly rubbed one of her pig’s bellies, is an example of why farm animals are an important part of the agro ecosystem.

We were beginning to get the idea of how much work it took to raise their animals in alignment with their values, and how much love and compassion there was behind their efforts.

Eggs and fresh whole chickens from the farm are available at the Urban Digs Farm Market.

To support Urban Digs Farm and nourish your body with their wholesome food, look for their products here:

The Urban Digs Farm Market is located at 4992 Byrne Road, Burnaby, BC and is open Thursdays from 1pm to 6pm and Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.

Check their website,, for regular updates. As of June 18, here’s what they have in store:

In addition to lovely spring produce and eggs we'll have fresh whole chicken, whole ducks, duck breasts, heritage pork and red angus beef. All our meat is super sustainably and ethically raised on pasture.

Here's a more or less complete list of what's for eats this week:

  • Broccoli
  • Arugula
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Daikon
  • Sunflower Shoots
  • Pea Shoots
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Bok Choy
  • Honey
  • Eggs
  • Whole Duck
  • Duck Breast
  • Red Angus Beef
  • Bacon
  • Pickles & Preserves

In addition to picking up lovely spring produce, you can also visit the baby chicks, ducks, chickens & pigs, and see how our spring crops are coming along.

We are really easy to get to by car, transit or bike. There are miles of beautiful biking/walking paths right at the end of our street so why not make an afternoon of it?

We look forward to seeing you soon!