'Meat Me Halfway' Is a Calm, Balanced Film That Seeks Common Ground at the Table

Brian Kateman wants us to have more constructive conversations about meat.

Meat Me Halfway

Meat Me Halfway

"Reducetarianism" is the idea that getting people to eat fewer animal products is more realistic than convincing them to go fully vegetarian or vegan. Why strive for such a thing? Because reducing consumption of animal products will decrease the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production, and thus help the planet in the fight against climate change.

It sounds logical—surely, killing fewer animals can be viewed as a victory—and yet, many people struggle with the idea of reducetarianism. Meat-eaters dislike being told they should eat less of food they love. Animal rights activists insist it is unacceptable to kill any animal for human consumption. The result is an uncomfortable stalemate, where conversations about a pressing issue just don't happen because nobody knows what to say.

That's why we should all be grateful for Brian Kateman. He is one person who doesn't give up when it comes to talking about uncomfortable things—specifically, our diets. The New York City-based writer and founder of the Reducetarian Foundation keeps trying to move this conversation along with his thought-provoking articles, annual conferences, and now a brand-new documentary film called "Meat Me Halfway" that's being released on July 20, 2021. 

Eat JUST nugget x Brian Kateman
Kateman samples a lab-grown chicken nugget made by Eat JUST.

Meat Me Halfway

The film, which is described in a press release as essentially being Kateman's thesis, "does not specifically preach avoiding meat all together, but rather encourages eating less meat for a variety of health, environmental, and animal welfare reasons." In it, Kateman embarks on a series of conversations with people who sit on opposite sides of the meat debate, and yet are willing to have a frank discussion about where they're coming from and why they feel as strongly as they do. 

Over the course of the film, Kateman has a lengthy discussion with his parents, who have never tasted an avocado before and think pizza is a health food. He talks to Anita Krajnc of the Animal Save Movement, who organizes vigils for pigs going to slaughterhouses; she invites Kateman to join, and it's a deeply emotional experience that is beautifully conveyed in the film. He visits White Oak Pastures farm in Georgia, where animals are raised and slaughtered in the kindest, gentlest way possible. He meets with Silicon Valley scientists who are working to develop cell-based meats and fish and sits down with renowned writers and researchers Dr. Marion Nestle, Mark Bittman, Bill McKibben, and more. 

animation from Meat Me Halfway
An animated Kateman debates the ethics of meat-eating with his father at Thanksgiving.

Meat Me Halfway

Nestle, curiously, is not a fan of lab-grown meat. She describes them as being off her radar: "They're artificial, so I'm not interested. I'd rather eat meat from an animal that was raised under the best possible conditions." At one point in the interview with Kateman, she admits she's fascinated by the way in which the vegan world is pursuing the development of artificial meat, which she interprets as a lingering hunger for it. "They miss it," she says, because people instinctively like eating meat. 

Michael Selden, CEO of Finless Foods, a lab-grown seafood company, takes issue with this viewpoint of lab-grown products being artificial. "Labs are used to produce beer," he points out. "Most of the snacks we eat have been developed and tested in labs." He expresses frustration at the fact that people have so many questions and concerns about how these new lab-grown meats are made—and too few about how the foods they eat right now are made. There are powerful reasons for the ag-gag laws that prevent filming inside slaughterhouses, he argues, and people would do well to start questioning those.

There is no consensus achieved at the end of the documentary, no grand concluding statements. The purpose of the film seems to be more about depicting the various viewpoints and helping the skeptical viewer to understand that many people—vegans, meat-eaters, farmers, and scientists—are all trying to do their part to make the world a better place for animals while taking drastically different approaches. Convincing oneself of possessing the moral high ground is a dangerously narrow-viewed approach.

This is a profoundly refreshing approach, particularly after the "Seaspiracy" debacle in which that filmmaker came across as extremely pushy and determined to conduct every interview with a foregone conclusion, despite having an important message to deliver. Kateman is the opposite, open-minded and curious, willing to talk to anyone about their work to better understand it. It's well worth a watch.

You can access "Meat Me Halfway" on Amazon and iTunes, starting July 20, 2021.