Ways to reduce plastic use: Your guide to plastic free meat and seafood

Ways to reduce plastic use: Your guide to plastic free meat and seafood

Inside: Plastic free (and less plastic) meat and seafood ideas. Learn about the pros and cons of each approach and how Ecojam's Eleanor Williamson buys meat and seafood for her family of 4. 

This guide is a result of my failed mission to find a step by step guide to going plastic free. We hope that it will save you time, money (as you won't need to spend money on options that don't work for you) and stress.

1) Find a butcher and fishmongers and take your own containers

PROS
The meat and seafood are likely to be high quality
The meat and seafood are more likely to be locally sourced
You can let staff know that you would like more plastic free options
You can check the quality of the produce before you buy it

CONS
Visiting a butcher and/or a fishmonger takes extra time and, if you need to drive, extra carbon emissions for the journey
Be prepared for less choice as a lot of the meat and seafood will already have plastic packaging
The plastic free options may not be organic
The meat and seafood may be more expensive

2) Find a local farmers market

PROS
The meat and seafood are likely to be high quality
The meat and seafood are likely to be locally sourced
You can let staff know that you would like more plastic free options
You can check the quality of the produce before you buy it

CONS
Visiting a farmers market takes extra time and, if you need to drive, extra carbon emissions for the journey
Be prepared for less choice as a lot of the meat and seafood will already have plastic packaging
The plastic free options may not be organic
The meat and seafood may be more expensive

3) Find protein substitutes to cut out or cut down on your meat and seafood  consumption
(e.g. beans, pulses, nuts - which you can buy plastic free)

PROS
Reducing your meat consumption can be a good way to reduce your carbon footprint
Beans and pulses are a healthy alternative to meat
No cruelty to animals and fish
Meat-free options are often cheaper
Could lead to a more varied diet

CONS
Not a great option for committed meat eaters and seafood lovers
May require extra cooking skills if you are used to cooking with meat and seafood
May require you to learn to like different foods

4) Buy meat and fish in cans

PROS
Cheaper
Can be stored for longer
Can be purchased at the supermarket or with an online shop so no need for an extra journey

CONS
Not fresh
Difficult to determine the quality of the meat and fish
Options will be more limited
May not work in recipes where fresh meat or fish is required
You might not be able to get organic
Meat and fish will not be locally sourced

5) Buy bulk packs of frozen meat and seafood

PROS
Less plastic (for example: buy 10 frozen salmon fillets in a bag rather than 5 lots of 2 fresh salmon fillets in a tray wrapped in clingfilm)
Cheaper
Can be stored longer

CONS
Not totally plastic free
Not fresh
Difficult to determine the quality of the meat and seafood
Options will be more limited
May not work in recipes where fresh meat or seafood is required
You might not be able to get organic
Meat and seafood will not be locally sourced

My solution to reduce (almost eliminate) plastic waste and get plastic free meat and seafood

So, the first decision I made when we started looking for plastic free meat and seafood was that we needed to cut down on our meat eating (not a decision my husband was particularly excited about – especially as he does most of the cooking!). This works for us from a plastic reduction perspective but it always lowers our carbon footprint. Using less expensive alternatives such as tins of beans and lentils also leaves more money spare to buy high-quality meat from animals that were reared without cruelty. 

For me, welfare is a top priority – this means tinned meat is out, frozen too as I haven't found any organic meat in big freezer bags yet.

We get our high-quality meat from our local farm shop. But, as it is a drive away, we only purchase meat when we are travelling that way anyway. This means we only buy meat about once a month. We usually buy enough for a meal or two a week and then freeze it when we get home. The butcher in the farm shop is happy to put the meat into our containers but they do use plastic gloves to handle the meat and they use plastic sheets on the scales. Things like whole chickens are usually already wrapped in bags but we will sometimes justify purchasing one as a whole chicken will do a lot of meals.

Whilst at the farm shop we stock up on fish cakes which are loose in the freezer and can be put into our own containers.

When it comes to fish, we buy breaded fish which comes in cardboard boxes and big packs of salmon, mackerel and coley which come in plastic bags. 

I currently buy Fish4Ever tinned tuna (which my children LOVE) but I am trying to cut down as I am not sure if sustainable tuna is possible.

So, not completely plastic free but I am happy to report that we no longer buy anything in plastic trays. I also think our diet is healthier (for us and for the planet) than before we started out on our plastic free journey.

This is the second article in our planned series looking at ways to reduce plastic. The first looked at plastic free fruit and veg. If you haven't already read our article which looks at why it isn't possible to write a step-by-step guide to going plastic free you can find it here.

Looking for a step-by-step guide to going plastic free? Read on...

Next up we look at the plastic free options we have found for fresh food and share our thoughts on how to have a plastic free fridge

If you have found solutions that are not on our list please get in touch via Facebook and Twitter. We do not claim to have found the perfect solution and we are always up for trying new ideas.