I was in with the family doctor for the annual service and, among other things, she told me my cholesterol was a bit high. Ah, Flora ProActiv will sort that, I thought to myself, I’ll plaster it on to everything and that’ll wipe out the bad cholesterol. It’s proven to lower your cholesterol, isn’t it?

But the doctor had more draconian measures in mind. ‘‘Limit,’’ she sternly said, “red meat to twice a week and it is white meat or fish for the other days”.

Silence. You could hear a needle drop in the surgery. Red meat – that’s beef and lamb – just twice a week. Surely she meant twice a day? Nope, twice a week. Even a bad vegetarian would have it more often than that, I grinned to myself. Like most farmers, I’m very partial to beef, whether it be in identifiable form of steak or roast or ground up as in burgers.

Vegetarian or vegan, I could not be. Life is too short to deny oneself one of its great animal-derived luxuries. Cattle are bred to convert grass into deliciously edible forms of protein and we are bred to eat it.

Improving health

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a creamy Killowen Farm yoghurt or a decent wedge of rich Kilmeaden cheddar or a well-marbled Tormey dry-aged rib eye steak, it’s all delightful food. If you really want to deny yourself something to improve your health, firstly give up smoking and alcohol, then sell the car and take to the bike.

But let’s flip matters around for a few minutes. It practically kills me to say this but there are quite a few reasons why we should eat less red meat.

There are health reasons, as I’ve just learned, to limit our consumption. The fish-eaters of the world undoubtedly live longer.

But this may be a dubious benefit. Instead of five years in a nursing home nodding your head, it becomes 10 years. Five years or less will do me and still be fuelled on red meat.

There are environmental reasons to limit our consumption – I read recently that worldwide, livestock are second to coal in their emission of greenhouse gases. Unbelievable, but apparently true. Though at the rate China is building coal-fired power stations in Serbia and elsewhere, livestock will only be in the halfpenny place as regards polluters.

And as we learned recently, livestock-produced methane degrades more quickly in the atmosphere. But that’s not a good reason to double the size of your herd, dairy farmers please take note.

As an aside, may I add that it’s clearly Government policy to sacrifice the national suckler herd in favour of dairy herd expansion from a greenhouse gas point of view.

However, perhaps the biggest argument for easing back on the beef is that it’s unsustainable in a world under pressure to feed itself. The feed to meat conversion ratio for beef is at least double that of pigs or poultry. The efficient conversion of grain into meat is best done through a pig. With that said, the pig producers aren’t seeing the benefit of this as yet. Neither are grain producers.

However, you may be like me and place your meat-eating or vegan ideals away down your list of priorities and concerns. It’s a first-world problem. Besides red meat is definitely becoming a luxury product and is no longer a cheap source of protein to feed the masses.

So will I be changing my eating habits? I won’t. What you worry about seldom happens – it’s the worry which you never had that catches you unawares. That’s the one that could kill you.