Illustration showing meat and livestock

Prime Cut: One top chef’s astonishing journey to eating less meat

Interview with award-winning chef, Richard H Turner about his mission to get us all to consume less meat.
  Published:  01 Nov 2017    |      2 minute read

Richard H Turner is the creative force behind Meatopia - a festival of high quality ethically sourced meat. He is responsible for the food side of things at the award winning Hawksmoor restaurant and is the author of several books including the best-selling PRIME: The Beef Cookbook and Hog: Proper Pork Recipes from the Snout to the Squeak.

So, it’s perhaps astounding to learn that Richard doesn’t eat that much meat — and he’s on a mission to get you to consume less meat too.

What does meat mean to you?

I grow and eat a lot of vegetables. They are a healthy part of our diet and I love them. From an evolutionary standpoint, we are supposed to be mostly vegetarians.

I don’t think there’s any substitute for meat. We became the species we are when we gained the ability to eat meat and the increase in energy available enabled our brains to grow in mass and complexity.

What made you consider reducing your meat consumption?

I’m a regular visitor to farms of all kinds. I’ve even visited feed lots in America. As our population expands and gets wealthier, we tend to consume more meat. To continue to keep up with our meat consumption, farmers are forced to make choices I don’t agree with. Practices like intensive farming and cruelty to animals don’t sit right with me.

The only answer is to treat meat like gold: a precious resource or luxury.

For the last decade, I’ve cut my own [meat] consumption down to around four ounces a day.

How are you finding eating less meat?

I’m now at the point where I don’t generally eat meat when I’m not at work. I might have the occasional chicken, but I’m trying my best to know where it’s coming from. I like to know everything about my animal. In my fantasy world, I would be rearing everything I eat myself.

I try to restrict the amount of meat I eat, but unfortunately my job requires me to eat a lot of it. Some of my customers do find it a bit strange that I recommend they eat less, but better quality, meat.

Are you seeing any evidence of others eating less meat and more vegetables?

Flexitarianism is a well-documented trend. It’s not my generation who are embracing it, but the younger one. I think that’s what we are looking at in the future.

But you do have to watch out when making the shift so you're not eating processed food, which is what many people do wrong.

What would be your advice on how to eat less meat?

In a nutshell, spend more time and money looking for the good stuff. Ask questions like:

  • Where has the meat come from?
  • How was it slaughtered?
  • What breed was it?
  • What was the animal fed on?

Also, cook cautiously as well. If you buy a duck or a chicken, use it. Use every bit of it. None of that animal should be going into the bin. Bones can make a beautiful soup. Think like one of the old school cooks, like Julia Childs. There should be no wastage.

Lastly, you should be prepared to eat vegetables for a lot of the week.

Finally, do you have a favourite vegetable yourself?

Peas. I treat them like a grain. I also have some chillies growing in front of me right now. They’ve been there for a couple of months. They are plump. They are quite happy.

I'm growing some lovely citrus trees as well and they are going to be fantastic when they're in fruit.

Thank you for your time, Richard.

To find out more about Richard H. Turner’s work, visit Turner & George, the high-street butcher's shop he co-founded.