16 May 2019 10:32
On Wednesday, the Lancet medical journal published a study that calls for dramatic changes to food production and the human diet, in order to avoid "catastrophic damage to the planet". They include a reduction in red meat consumption of more than 50%, and a doubling of the intake of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. North Americans need to eat 84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils. For Europeans, eating 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds meets the guidelines," wrote The Guardian's Damian Carrington. Whatever the figure, there is a growing consensus that a drastic reduction in overall meat consumption is needed to maintain the health of the planet.
Excessive meat consumption, like other environmental crises, needs political solutions. So far the biggest change in our diets has come from a small but increasing percentage of people who identify as vegetarian or vegan: their answer to a global crisis is to swap out beef for cauliflower steak. The trend towards a meat-reduced diet is largely being driven by young people. That is why many are now calling for a shift in approach: towards a regime that can involve more people and be less rigid about the rules of meat consumption. What is more important to them is encouraging people to think about what they can do to reduce meat consumption worldwide. He says there is no one thing behind his desire to motivate people to eat less meat: he is worried about heart disease, animal cruelty, high food prices and environmental destruction. Reducing meat intake can solve a lot of problems, but he says people need to be less puritanical. "I remember one Thanksgiving, I ate a small piece of turkey and in that moment my sister, as siblings will do, said to me: 'I thought you were a vegetarian Brian.' I couldn't articulate then as well as I can now, but I thought about how the average person in the developed world eats around 200lb [90kg] of meat a year, and I'm eating let's say 5lb of meat a year. We need to be mindful of how challenging that can be for people and we need to create systems where the default choice is the moral one." Brian also says that not all meat is the same. But once you understand that factory farming and the products it produces are so connected to so many issues that are detrimental not just to ourselves but to others, it allows us to recognise that what comes out of your mouth is just as important as what goes into your mouth." He suggests supporting policy initiatives and encouraging restaurants to broaden their menus as small actions that can help. "Just yesterday I had a meeting with civil servants from Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] and they were commenting that dietary change is a contentious topic and politicians don't want to get close to that. He says he is hopeful there will be a groundswell of change, particularly in big cities where restaurants specialising in plant-based dishes are popular. But if there is a large enough group that eats that way and it's clear that it is progressive rather [than] a sacrifice, then it would be a strong signal to rapidly industrialising countries like China that want to catch up." Even in the west, people switching from animal to plant products does not necessarily mean an immediate reduction in meat and dairy production. If, in the UK, councils fine people for not recycling and high-emissions cars can be banned from the centre of London, it is time for individuals, companies and governments to actively work to reduce people's meat intake, whether they want to or not, campaigners say. "If we continue with our current levels of meat consumption, it's very likely that we will have more flooding, more hurricanes, extreme weather that is associated with exceeding the two-degree target for climate change... The William Dam Seeds catalogue remains popular with many home gardeners for its reasonable prices and its broad selection of flowers, herbs, and vegetables that include European varieties. An outstanding example of a superior European-bred variety is Siderno, a tomato I've grown on my patio for several years now. Every summer, the plants produce the earliest and best-tasting tomatoes of all the small-fruiting varieties I grow. William Dam Seeds lists Pluto, the best dwarf, small-leaved basil I've grown so far. The evening will also include a judged mini show and a sales table with plants and garden items. The company has seen an increase in sales this fall, a spokeswoman said, prompting executives to revive the holiday bonuses, which were suspended last year. The gifts range from $35 to $165 and are a small fraction of the annual bonuses that Bean workers can pocket if the company does well at the end of its fiscal year. Still, the return of the holiday checks is a welcome sign in a year when the company reduced its workforce and repealed its legendary return policy. But it does reflect an upturn in sales last month that renewed optimism for the holidays, said Stephen Smith, Bean's president and chief executive officer. "October really popped," Smith said, noting that the sales of light outerwear were particularly strong. Bean boots are continuing to post strong sales, Smith said, and flannel, fleece products and fleece sweaters are selling well. Smith said it takes time for a new marketing focus to take hold, and the strong October sales indicate that the "outsider" campaign is striking a chord. The company's February change in its return policy – from one where items were generally accepted with no questions asked to a more conventional receipt-required policy – was well-received, Smith said. Under the old policy, customers could return items after years of use and even buy Bean products at a yard sale to return to the company. "The overall majority (of customers), around 90 percent, are supportive" of the new policy, Smith said. He declined to offer numbers to indicate the impact of new policy, but said the revision "has stopped the abuse and that behavior has changed." Smith also said the layoffs and early retirement incentives shrank the company workforce enough and he doesn't anticipate more reductions in the employee headcount. The entourage, which includes people in marketing, finance and other departments, is a way to prepare for the key holiday sales period and get an early read on customer preferences. Smith said in March that net sales in 2017 were $1.6 billion, slightly below the year before. These protein sources include nuts, seeds and their butters; soy products including soy milk, tofu, edamame, tempeh and textured vegetable protein; and pulses, which consist of lentils, chickpeas, beans and split peas. These foods are great to include in your diet because, in addition to protein, they also provide us with iron, zinc and fibre. This is not to say that Canadians should omit animal products (including meat, fish, dairy and eggs) altogether. A plant-based diet still has room for varying amounts of meat and dairy foods. But it's important to keep in mind that research shows that a dietary pattern with more plants and less animal products is better for overall health, reducing risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and gastrointestinal disorders. Where does one start with plant-based proteins and what do these meals look like? Any of the plant-based proteins can replace a portion of the meat you would normally use. Use lentils and textured vegetable protein to replace meat in any dish that calls for it, including meatloaf, meatballs, lasagna, tacos, casserole, pizza and more. Take it slowly, reducing meat and increasing plant-based proteins a little bit at a time to get used to these new textures and flavours. Sitting down with a registered dietitian can also help when trying to figure out ideas that will work for your family's likes and dislikes, budget, time and comfort level with preparing food. That's the information I've been wrestling with since the Lancet Food Commission's report came out last week, yet again branding cheap, processed pork as posing a danger to health. The great thing about the Planetary Health Diet which The Lancet suggests can feed 10bn people without destroying the planet is that it excludes very little. All we have to do is limit our red meat consumption to the equivalent of a small meatball a day, which is basically one meal a week, at most. Our government should have welcomed the Planetary Health Diet and committed to helping us follow it there and then. Red meat should not be exempt from an increasing carbon tax, with the tax being immediately recycled as cash dividends to householders to help them make the food transition. Soft measures are just as important and should include, as a matter of urgency, creative cooking classes in schools, the roll-out of healthy school dinners and the co-opting of our favourite chefs to help families make the change. I'm only a basic family cook, but I've been adhering to my version of the Lancet diet for a family of six people in the week since the report came out. I really like the fact that meat and dairy are not totally excluded because I don't think food should be a religion or constitute your identity. Nor do I disrespect animals enough to think they are human and are going around thinking, as one vegan poster recently said: "I want to be called Mary-Kate, not dinner." Our weekly plan consists of four vegetarian dinners, one poultry, one fish and one red meat, if desired. The idea that Irish people come in for their dinner as one man and eat a lamb chop and six potatoes is nonsense. In truth, it's a good news story which says we can feed 10 billion people without wrecking the planet.