There is no doubt that our consumption of meat is taking its toll on the planet, and increasing numbers are convinced of the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Is the key to solving the planet’s problems in our diets?
Plenty of people think so and a growing number of brands seem to be on board. The UK meat-free food market was valued at £572m in 2017 and is estimated to grow to £658m by 2021. This is despite the fact that only 3% of people in the UK actually self-define as vegan.
So, are brands capitalising on a passing trend, or is going vegan is the future of food?
The problem with eating meat.
There are plenty of compelling environmental reasons to reduce meat consumption.
- The land needed to feed and support livestock makes meat production a major contributor to deforestation
- The crops of corn or grain needed to feed livestock require pesticides and fertilisers which can pollute waterways
- The water used by animal agriculture accounts for around 8% of global human water use
- Animals themselves generate waste and pollution (with cows belching out enormous amounts of methane every day)
- Animal agriculture is responsible for around 14% to 18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
According to researchers at the University of Oxford, a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and more than half of food emissions come from animal products. The study also found that beef and lamb have by far the most damaging effect on the environment, and that cutting meat and dairy products from our diets could reduce each individual’s carbon footprint from food by two-thirds.
So, time to go vegan?
It seems a no-brainer – we all ditch animal products and save the planet. But wait, where do those avocados come from? How many food miles are we racking up when we buy asparagus from Peru?
A truly sustainable vegan diet means more than just cutting out animal products, it means an acute awareness of seasonality and the provenance of our food.
Unless we embrace locally-sourced ingredients, a more sustainable form of meat and dairy production could arguably be more effective than turning to imported fruit and veg or industrially grown soya, maize and grains.
While cutting our meat consumption is a great first step in reducing our carbon footprint, there are also pressing issues around food waste that need to be addressed if we’re serious about cutting greenhouse gases.
As experts in the food and environment sectors, Pelican has compiled a thought-leadership report exploring our route to a more circular food chain which is available to download now.
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