What’s in a name? Are you a Flexitarian or a Part-Time Carnivore?

If you’re trying to eat less and better meat, how would you describe your dietary choices? You’re not vegetarian, and ‘flexitarian’ can confuse people. Are you a reducetarian? We asked Pete Davis of Part-Time Carnivore to steer a course through the terminology.  Why has he chosen his own description for the way he eats?

"I am often asked whether part-time carnivore is just another way of saying flexitarian. Previously I would have said yes, but I’ve been looking into it and there is a subtle difference. Here’s the OED definition:

“Flexitarian, n. A person who follows a primarily but not strictly vegetarian diet.”

I haven’t been able to find out who it was that first called themselves a flexitarian, but I would bet they had previously tried being strictly vegetarian and found it impractical for whatever reason. Being primarily vegetarian and becoming flexitarian actually means adding meat to the diet, rather than taking it way.

I arrived at my reduced-meat diet from the opposite direction. As a meat lover, I had never contemplated going veggie, but I knew that cutting down my meat consumption was a good idea for my health and for the health of the planet. I was aware of the term flexitarian, but it didn’t feel right for me.

Whether it’s flexitarian, semi-vegetarian or even reducetarian, they all sound like failed-vegetarian to me and that’s not what I am. It also feels like an insult to vegetarians to borrow the “-tarian” suffix whilst tucking in to a bowl of chicken wings.

In 2009 I decided that I needed some sort of identity to describe my intention to eat less meat and help me stick to it. I started calling myself a part-time carnivore and found that it got a great reaction. Since then I’ve had stalls at several events with a big “Part-Time Carnivore” banner, and hundreds of regular meat eaters have come over to talk to me and sign up. My hunch is that many of those conversations would never have happened if the banner had said “Flexitarian”.

Part-time carnivore is a far more inclusive identity. Whereas flexitarian implies a proximity to vegetarianism, the Part-Time Carnivore pledge allows for up to six meaty days each week (and down to zero). The emphasis is on breaking the habit that most people have of choosing meat automatically for their meal.

Of course in practice, flexitarian and part-time carnivore can mean the same thing. If you are an ex-vegetarian, by all means go on calling yourself a flexitarian. However, if you are interested in reducing meat consumption, I would encourage you to join the growing number of part-time carnivores. It’s just starting to catch on!"

Pete is co-founder of Part-Time Carnivore and you can follow him on Twitter @ptcarnivore