Showing results for: Meat, eggs and alternatives
Meat, eggs and new alternatives such as soy-meat, Quorn, or lab-grown meat are foods that are often rich in protein and essential micronutrients. However they may also be high in saturated fat and, when processed, in salt. Consumption of meat is very high in most high income countries and is on the rise in middle income countries. While an overly high consumption is associated with ill-health and disease, in countries where people’s diets are lacking in diversity and essential micronutrients – as is the case in many low income countries – animal products can play an important nutritional role. Meat products are also associated with very high GHG emissions; farmed animals contribute some 14.5% of human-made GHG emissions. Animal production also contributes to many other negative environmental impacts including deforestation and associated biodiversity loss, land degradation and soil and water pollution. The production of animals for slaughter and use also raises a complex set of ethical and welfare issues.
If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.
Writing in the Guardian, Isabella Tree of Knepp Castle Estate argues that vegan diets ignore the potential of wildlife-friendly livestock grazing methods. Tree claims that not using anti-worming agents or antibiotics allows cow dung to feed various soil organisms, contributing to soil restoration and wildlife diversity.
The New York-based Guarini Centre on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law has released a report exploring the policies that US cities could use to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Three main categories of policy are proposed: informational (to raise public awareness of the health and climate implications of meat and dairy consumption), procurement policies for public institutions, and economic interventions to incentivise different purchasing patterns.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the key ingredient in the plant-based burger created by Impossible Foods. Soy leghemoglobin, which releases a protein called heme that gives the burger its red colour and meat-like flavour, is made by Impossible Foods using genetically modified yeast. The FDA’s approval is based on the conclusions drawn by a panel of food safety experts and experimental data submitted by Impossible Foods.
A new paper in Science reviews trends in meat consumption and the associated health and environmental implications. The paper also discusses potential means of influencing meat consumption levels.
A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP, a US non-profit research and advocacy organisation) and Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN, a non-profit headquartered in Spain) finds that the five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. The top 20 meat and dairy companies have greater emissions than some nations, including the UK and Australia. The report argues that by 2050, the meat and dairy industry could account for 80% of the planet’s greenhouse gas budget if the industry grows as projected.
The UK’s Eating Better alliance has published a survey of ready meals in the main UK supermarkets. The briefing reports that only 3% of the 1350 ready meals surveyed were entirely plant-based; vegetarian, plant-based and meat substitute meals altogether made up 14% of the meals surveyed; 77% of the meals contained meat; and 10% contained fish or seafood. Some retailers sell vegan and vegetarian ready meals at a higher price than other meals, most notably Tesco’s Wicked Kitchen vegan range, which is 67% more expensive than Tesco’s regular range. Nearly one third of meat-based meals did not specify the country of origin of the meat, while only three retailers included the meat in their own-brand ready meals under their farm animal welfare policies.
A study has found that people who view vegetarianism as a threat to their way of life, and those who believe in human supremacy over animals, are likely to have fewer animal species that they view as worthy of moral consideration (compared to people who do not see vegetarianism as a threat or who do not believe in human supremacy over animals). Moral attitudes varied strongly towards different animal species, for example, 90% of participants a felt moral obligation to care for the welfare of dogs, compared to 51% who felt the same obligation for pigs.
The FCRN’s Tara Garnett is featured in this video by UK climate website Carbon Brief, which discusses how farmers could reduce the carbon footprint of beef production. Tara points out that production-side measures only go so far, and that consumption changes are needed as well.
Sixty suppliers of meat and fish have been ranked according to their management of nine sustainability categories, in an index prepared by Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming. 60% of the companies assessed are deemed “high-risk” on their overall sustainability strategy (or lack of it). Antibiotics are the most poorly managed risk, while waste and pollution are the best-managed risks.
France recently amended its agriculture bill to ban non-animal foods from being labelled similarly to animal products, e.g. “soy sausage”, on the basis that such labelling could be misleading to consumers.
Consumers prefer the term “100% plant-based” to “vegan”, according to a survey of US adults. When asked a series of questions including “Which tastes better?” and “Which is healthier?”, more than two-thirds of respondents selected “100% plant-based” over “vegan” (no other answers were available). According to Bark Stuckey (President and Chief Innovation Officer of Mattson, the organisation that conducted the survey), the preference might be because “plant-based” is seen as a positive dietary change, whereas “vegan” is seen as a whole lifestyle associated with deprivation and activism.
Creating realistic 3D structure for laboratory-grown meat has been a technical challenge, partly because of the difficulty in getting oxygen to the cells in the middle of a piece of cultured tissue. However, Israeli startup Aleph Farms says it may have the solution.
FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen has found that in a survey of farmers and other stakeholders, more than 75% of them would support re-legalising the use of swill (cooked waste food) as animal feed. Half of all pig farmers said they would consider using swill on their farm, were it re-legalised and safe heat-treatment procedures introduced. Erasmus has written a blog post to explain the topic.
FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen of the University of Cambridge has surveyed six NGO initiatives that are promoting sustainable cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon by using intensified pasture production to avoid deforestation. He finds that high-productivity cattle ranching is possible, requiring investment of US$410–2180/ha with payback times of 2.5–8.5 years. However, several barriers exist, including knowledge transfer, financial support and transparency in cattle supply chains.
Eating Better has published a new report setting out their suggested approach to eating “less and better” meat and dairy. They set out eight principles, including: eat less meat and dairy; reduce waste; choose smaller scale, higher standard producers; and avoid livestock fed on imported feedstuffs such as soy. The report also includes a guide to assurance and labelling schemes to help people choose better meat and dairy.
A new report, The Avoidable Crisis, finds that large-scale deforestation, fires and human rights abuses are linked to soy plantations and the global meat industry.
A information site about clean meat and cellular agriculture has been launched by the Cellular Agriculture Society. It discusses applications of cellular agriculture including lab-grown meat, leather and silk and introduces terminology such as “neomnivore”, i.e. a person who only eats cellular agriculture products.