IN THE NEWS: On MAR 6, 2018
A new Greenpeace reports is urging global meat and dairy production to be heavily slashed within the next 30 years to avoid "dangerous climate change," tackle the global issue of antimicrobial resistance and promote a shift in the way we eat and farm that focuses on healthier plant-based diets. The document – entitled "Less is More: Reducing meat and dairy for a healthier life and planet, Greenpeace International," claims that, if left unchecked, agriculture is projected to produce 52 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, 70 percent of which will come from meat and dairy.
It slams intensive meat production and industrial livestock farming, accusing "broken" government systems of contributing to a system that is not sustainable.
Instead, the campaign group is calling for an end to government policies that support industrial meat and dairy production, and refocusing on helping farmers shift towards ecological methods of growing crops and raising an amount of livestock that the planet can sustain.
Future shifts in the way we eat
The Greenpeace report comes at a time when the food industry at large is examining sustainable food concepts that appeal to today's mindful consumer, as well as looking at the future of food and what role it plays in feeding the global population which is estimated to increase to 9.8 billion people by 2050.
Innova Market Insights released its top trends for 2018 a few months back, naming "Mindful Choices" as number one. This is all about how the increasingly thoughtful and mindful consumer will continue to catalyze changes in the way that companies produce, package and label their products – something which resonates with consumers around the world and is likely to gain momentum in the coming years.
The other element driving the "mindful choice" trend is about peace of mind while making a positive impact in the world, through ethical claims. There has been a +44 percent CAGR in ethical claims (2010-2016, global), which includes ethical animal/human/environment, excluding ethical packaging.
The types of issues Greenpeace is pointing out in this new report tap into the bigger picture of how consumers feel and think about what they eat.
It also comes shortly after a survey in the US and the UK revealed how consumers feel about lab-grown meat which is making waves among some of the world's biggest investors tipping the innovation to be the future of protein-packed food.
The new research reveals nearly one in three consumers are willing to eat it, but the US shows more willingness compared to their British counterparts.
29 percent of UK & US consumers say they would eat cultured meat, while 40 percent of Americans are happy to do so and 60 percent of vegans are willing to give it a try, according to new research from Surveygoo, commissioned by specialist PR agency Ingredient Communications.
FoodIngredientsFirst has spoken with the lead author of the Greenpeace report, Reyes Tirado, and we asked him what steps the food industry should take to help support a move towards a decrease in meat/dairy consumption and promote a rich plant-based diet?
"First, the food industry, globally must move away from producing massive amounts of super-processed, unhealthy animal products that contribute to damaging our planet and our health and that often do not respect animal welfare," she says.
"Second, they should promote plant-based products that are fresh, healthy, and produced in ecological ways by local farmers."
Questions have been raised about how the Greenpeace warning does not necessarily apply to all countries around the world, with the former chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Authority in New Zealand, Dr. Jacqueline Rowarth, claiming that it may be correct for the US, but doesn't apply to New Zealand.
"Of course a Greenpeace document which came out of the Northern Hemisphere is covered with pictures of feedlot farming and barns and we don't do that," she told the New Zealand press.
She also says that New Zealand is at best practice for milk and meat and it is less-developed countries that are producing far more greenhouse gas than the pasture-based agriculture in New Zealand.
However, Tirado points out that consumers in higher income regions around the world are already showing a natural desire to eat healthy food, but are also heavy meat consumers.
"Many consumers in high-income parts of society all around the world, but particularly in more developed countries, already show an appetite for more healthy foods and diets," she continues.
"These are also the groups with the highest average meat consumption per capita (about double, or more, the world's average of 43kg meat per person per year). Here, in high-income parts of society all over the world, is where we have the strongest responsibility to lead in this necessary dietary shift towards more plant-rich diets."
"This is necessary for our health, for the climate and for the survival of the planet."
Keeping Paris Agreement on track and better health
Greenpeace claims that it's call to reduce meat and dairy production will help keep the Paris Agreement on track as well as Pete Smith, former Convening Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the need to reduce demand for livestock products is now a scientifically mainstream view.
"Only a significant decrease in meat and milk consumption will allow us to deliver a food system fit for the future – for the benefit of humans and the planet as a whole," he said.
"Producing the same mix of foods as we consume now, even if we were to do so more sustainably, cannot deliver the reduction in environmental impacts we need to protect the planet for our children and their children."
The report also finds that increased production and consumption of meat contributes to a global health crisis where high red meat consumption is linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Industrial animal agriculture is also associated with antimicrobial resistance – which the World Health Organization declared a "global health emergency" – and is a significant source of foodborne pathogens.
"A new, diverse global movement is growing: one hungry for a better way of eating and producing food that is in tune with ourselves and the environment. Together, we can loosen the grip of industrial animal agriculture on our food system and build a healthier world for our generation and the next," concludes Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.