Meatless: The Movie

Shane Close is a Miami-based surfer (past chairman of the local Surfrider chapter), high-end web developer, and, now, indie filmmaker. After he read the Omnivore's Dilemma and became a dad, his wife turned to him and asked the question no barbecue addict wants to hear: "Could you go meatless?"

Being a good sport, Close accepted the challenge and even decided to chronicle his experiment on film. The result -- Meatless: The Movie -- is less a high-minded look at the evils of agribusiness and more of a Real World-style take on the joys (his grocery bill went down) and horrors (um, his toilet paper bill went up) of going vegetarian.

Close eventually hopes to release Meatless: The Movie on the film festival circuit through his company, Big Happy Films, but for now, the curious can follow him on his blog, which is scattered with meal ideas (beer and bananas for dinner, anyone?), interesting factoids (who knew most beer was made with isinglass -- dried fish bladders?), and vegan humor (Why did the tofu cross the road? To prove it wasn't chicken!).

Below, our Q&A: 

Did you eat a lot of meat before?
I grew up on meat and potatoes, and I'd generally barbecue two to three times a week. Rarely would there be a day that I wouldn't have beef, chicken, or fish at least two meals day.

So what changed?
When we had our daughter, my wife and I wanted to eat more healthy. We started moving toward a more fresh and organic diet -- natural foods, grass-fed beef. But after awhile, our grocery bills boomed to the equivalent of a mortgage payment. Not just shopping at Whole Foods -- even the Greenwise brand at Publix can get expensive. Grass-fed beef can be three times more expensive than corn-fed beef. Something had to give. My wife turned to me and asked, "Could you go meatless?"

Tell us about the format and what else is in the film.
I'm shooting hi-end video -- 1080p, which is the highest-resolution video. I do a lot of interviews -- In fact, I'm going to a hare krishna temple tonight, and I've also filmed or hope to film an AIDS doctor, a nutritionist, vegan chefs, raw food chefs, and the people at Glaser Farms. That is all interspersed with footage of me conducting my experiment. The first 30 days, I tried a lacto-ovo diet that included eggs and dairy. The next 60, it was all vegan.

How hard is it to go vegan?
It's crazy. For instance, I was looking for vegan beer. I found some concerns that, even if a company didn't use animal products in the beer, they use the spent grains to feed livestock.  That was a vegan concern. Then table sugar -- half the sugar manufacturers process sugar using cow bones as charcoal.

I was so ignorant when I started, but I've learned that there are more reasons why people go vegetarian than [because they support] PETA. The environmental concerns... 28 percent of global methane emissions [come from meat production]. It's staggering. One of the things I realized is the health factor -- heart disease runs in my family, and I have high LDL cholesterol - the bad cholesterol.

Did your grocery bill go down?
When I stopped buying steaks, it went down immediately. Since going vegan and having to buy specialty foods, it's upping my bill. 

What physical changes have you noticed?
Two things: One, I don't feel heavy and sluggish when I get up from the table, and two, I am getting so much fiber I'm as regular as anybody could ever be. Sorry, I don't know how to say that delicately!

Dude, that is too much information!
Hey, whatever gets people's attention.

So, will you remain a vegetarian when this is all over?
I have to admit, the first 30 days of going lacto-ovo was easier than I thought. I did not miss chicken or fish or beef, though I did miss sushi. So I could easily see moving to a lacto-ovo diet.

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