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.
FCRN member Helen Harwatt outlines a three-step strategy for shifting from animal to plant proteins as part of climate change mitigation strategies, arguing that not acting on livestock emissions would require unrealistically ambitious emissions cuts in other sectors.
This editorial in The Lancet argues that countries and people should “limit their consumption of intensively farmed meats”, discusses recent papers on the environmental and health impacts of meat production and consumption, and points out that policies to reduce meat consumption may have to be tailored to different contexts.
In the book The End of Animal Farming, author Jacy Reese examines the social forces, technologies and activism that he argues will lead to the end of animal agriculture.
Optimal taxation levels would cause the price of processed meat to increase by 25% and the price of red meat to increase by 4%, on average, according to this paper. The calculations are based on the additional healthcare costs incurred by one additional serving, as opposed to the total healthcare costs associated with all meat consumption. The paper concludes that such a tax on red and processed meats could reduce the deaths associated with consumption of these products by 9% and reduce associated healthcare costs by 14%.
13% of the UK population is now vegetarian or vegan, while a further 21% identify as “flexitarian”, according to the 2018-19 edition of the Food and Drink Report by supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners. Among other food trends, the report also discusses plastic packaging, claiming that 88% of survey participants who had watched the final episode of the wildlife documentary Blue Planet II have changed how they use plastic.
This report by the RISE Foundation (Rural Investment Support for Europe), co-authored by FCRN member Elisabet Nadeu, outlines the environmental and health impacts of livestock production and consumption in the EU. The report suggests that there is a “safe operating space” for livestock production, defined at the lower bound by the provision of nutrition to humans and the maintenance of permanent pasture habitats, and defined at the upper boundary by climate impacts and nitrogen and phosphorus emissions.
Labelling schemes to indicate higher welfare standards for broiler chickens have contributed to some changes in the governance of poultry welfare in Australia, argues this paper - but those changes are mostly incremental, and the labelling schemes may even bolster the perceived legitimacy of intensive poultry farming.
Government policies are not doing enough to support the transition to a lower-carbon foods sector, according to a report by the Changing Markets Foundation. Specifically, the report argues in favour of policies to shift the food system away from animal agriculture and towards plant-based foods.
This paper calculates the carbon footprints of food supply across different European Union countries. Annual footprints vary from 610 to 1460 CO2 eq. per person, with Bulgaria having the lowest footprint and Portugal having the highest footprint. Meat and eggs account for the largest share of the carbon footprint (on average 56%), while dairy products account for a further 27%.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has released the report “Transforming the livestock sector through the Sustainable Development Goals”, which examines how the livestock sector interacts with each of the Sustainable Development Goals, including synergies, trade-offs and complex interlinkages.
A new lab-grown meat startup, Meatable, claims that it has overcome a key technical barrier - the use of serum from unborn animals to grow cells. Meatable’s meat-growing process allegedly does not need serum, because it uses pluripotent stem cells (avoided by other startups because they are hard to control). Meatable also claims their process only needs to take one cell from an animal (as opposed to a larger piece of tissue).
FCRN member Christopher Schlottmann and Jeff Sebo, both of New York University, have written a book discussing empirical, ethical, and social dimensions of food, animals, and the environment, providing both big picture and more detailed analysis, including updated statistics.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has published guidelines for the assessment of nutrient flows and their associated environmental impacts in livestock supply chains. The guidelines are aimed at people and organisations who already have a good working knowledge of life cycle assessment of livestock systems, and are intended to promote consistency through defining calculation methods and data requirements.
The UK’s Eating Better alliance has launched a new video exploring how to eat “Less and better” meat, where the alliance defines “better” as being better for the environment, health and food workers. The video explains several different labels that can be found on meat, including the Red Tractor, organic, free range, and RSPCA assured.
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.