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Green Meals

Most grocery lists take a toll on the planet

By George M. Withers

The world's population keeps growing. More mouths to feed means higher demand for protein, which usually comes in the form of meat. Unfortunately, humanity's appetite for animal protein is killing the planet, pure and simple.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development reports that agriculture is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of freshwater withdrawal, 70 per cent of biodiversity loss, and 73 per cent of deforestation around the equator. A University of Oxford study states that the world’s population needs to eat 75 per cent less beef and 90 per cent less pork to keep global warming below two degrees this century.

When it takes dozens of kilos of grains and litres upon litres of water to produce one kilo of meat, something’s got to give, but what? Scientists, researchers, and regular citizens alike are looking to recalibrate our food choices and grocery lists.

Matthew Prescott’s book, Food is the Solution is part cookbook, part manifesto and comes with 80 eco-friendly, plant-based recipes. Vegan and vegetarian might be dirty words in some corners of carnivore culture, but people like Mr. Prescott feel it’s time to put down the T-bones and pick up lettuce spinners.

If eating carrot sticks and salads every day makes you feel a little faint, know that the future of meat substitutes looks as juicy as that beef burger broiling on the grill.

However, the hurdles are high. After all, diets are cultural and ingrained in the way we cook from the time we’re old enough to turn on the stove. Change will be difficult. But fake meat can help bridge the big step. Take Impossible Foods. Their burger is making inroads in the U.S., a country built on beef and BBQ and animal protein.

Cultured meat, created by growing actual animal cells in a vat, is moving toward viability. Impossible Foods have created a meaty burger by harnessing an iron-rich molecule found in plants called heme, which helps meat taste like meat. Ocean Hugger Foods have engineered a process to transform tomatoes into mock tuna. In Holland, the Vegetarian Butcher is developing a device whereby the consumer pours in a bag of vegetable protein and out pops fabricated meat.

Can plants and plant-based proteins formed into patties, drumsticks, and chops actually taste good? They better. Our planet just might depend on it. Tastes and habits are difficult to change when the person in question was raised to become a proud meat-eater. But there are more vegetarians under the age of 35 than ever before. They have a vote.

And if that doesn’t make a dent in political polls, then everyone can vote with their wallet. What we buy and demand as consumers goes a long way in changing practices we’ve deemed as irrevocable.

 

Summer 2019, Vol 11 N°3

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