Eliminate meat from my diet?

No way. Just the thought of it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Be honest, have you ever thrown a couple of pounds of linguine on the grill and watched it cook while you sipped a fine burgundy or single-malt scotch?

Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables. I eat them with every meal, however I consider them a side dish – essential but for me the main course is meat, whether it is beef, pork, lamb or chicken. I love fresh fish too.

When it comes to eating, the truth is, nothing compares to the smell, sound and taste of a steak sizzling over an open fire.

Kansas City Strip. T-Bone. Porterhouse. Rib Eye.

Thick. Juicy. Delicious.

Fist-sized pork chops aren’t bad either. And don’t forget a grilled leg of lamb. Superb dining.

Unfortunately, a widespread general consensus on red meat can be summed up in two words, “Eat less.” This has triggered a decline in the consumption of red meat and a drop in income for livestock producers.

Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and that of our planet. It was founded in 2003 by marketing professional Sid Lerner.

When it comes to making decisions about the food I eat, I prefer to consider the findings of someone who has conducted scientific research on what makes a healthy diet. The question here becomes whether the concerns about red meat are scientifically sound.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests eating two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts each day. The key is to choose lean cuts of meat and trim the fat from the meat before or after cooking.

No matter how you cut it, all lean meats are high in nutritional quality. Beef, pork and lamb have been recognized as healthy sources of top quality protein, as well as thiamin, pantothenic acid, niacin and vitamins B-6 and B-12.

Red meats are also excellent sources of iron, copper, zinc and manganese – minerals not easily obtained in sufficient amounts in diets without meats, according to food guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lean meats eaten in moderation as part of a varied diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, are not only healthy but also essential. Just as important, beef-steak, pork roast and lamb chops taste good.

Fire up the grill. Writing this column has made me hungry.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.