Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 6, 2010

Meatless on Mondays?

Doctor encourages passage of non-binding resolution

TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Clifton doesn't want to force her way of life on anyone.

But Clifton, a Traverse City doctor who obtains the bulk of her calories from vegetables and other plant-based foods, definitely thinks it's the way to go.

That's why she hopes the Traverse City Commission will pass a resolution that encourages city residents to avoid meat on Mondays. The non-binding resolution couldn't force residents to abstain from meat, of course, but she believes it might go a long way toward promoting good health.

"It's (a) suggestion, an option, something to think about," she said. "I'm not asking the city commission to enact a law, I'm just asking the city commission to help build awareness in the community."

Clifton, who has an office in the Grand Traverse Commons, is passionate about nutrition. In September, she read about San Francisco officials passing a "Meatless Monday" resolution.

"I thought, 'I wonder if we can do this here?'" she said.

Clifton gathered petition signatures in support of her cause and plans to present the signatures to the city on Monday. Commissioners could choose to adopt or reject the resolution in the coming weeks.

The resolution, while supported by some commissioners, might not get off the ground.

"I don't think the residents of Traverse City are particularly interested in having the city commission instruct them on what to eat," Mayor Chris Bzdok said.

Clifton contends that avoiding meat has several positive outcomes. It's better for the environment, she said, because it cuts back on the waste and pollution associated with meat farming. But what's most important are the individual health benefits, she said.

"The big thing for me is the personal health component," she said. "We know that people who eat a plant-based diet are going to suffer less obesity, less diabetes, there's great data on cancer and heart disease and reducing the risks of those with plant-based diets."

Eric Patterson is co-owner of The Cooks' House, a Front Street restaurant. He's "100 percent omnivore" he said, and enjoys meat just as much as anyone else. But he supports Clifton's efforts.

"I think sometimes the American diet has a little too much meat in it," he said. "It's not a bad idea to just point it out and show that there are some alternatives."

Boyd Richards is manager at Maxbauer Specialty Meat Market on Union Street. He's not keen on the idea.

"Times are tough enough right now, and we can use all the business every day we can get," he said.

City Commissioner Jim Carruthers is on board with the proposal. It's not intended to harm businesses or restaurants, he said, but instead to encourage people to think about their food selections.

"Pushing for a healthier lifestyle is what we're looking at," he said.

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