Members of the modern environmental and animal rights activist movement probably think they are waking up to a bad nightmare on Monday morning as one of its beloved news sources, Treehugger.com, reports that meat-eating is on the rise.
“So much for all those Meatless Mondays. The message that it’s important to cut back on meat is not getting through to Americans, who continue to pound back the pounds of beef, chicken and pork at an exponential rate,” writes senior write Katherine Martinko.
This news comes at a time when the anti-meat movement started celebrating the notion that meat consumption was on the decline.
As Martinko correctly reports the facts from Rabobank Food and Agribusiness research team, the news is not surprising to anyone in the meat or poultry industry and it’s perhaps little stale. Rabobank’s report only confirms what the pork industry already knows — consumers did not lose their appetite for meat. They just did not have the disposable income to enjoy it in larger quantities.
Still, it is hard to ignore the furied work of anti-meat campaigns in wake of the Rabobank report that was released back in July. The report certainly made an impact.
Last week, a group of 40 global investors — managing $1.25 trillion in assets — sent a letter to 16 global food companies. The Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative is urging companies like Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, Tesco, Walmart and General Mills to change the way they source protein for their products to help to reduce environmental and health risks.
The letter was prompted by the recently released University of Oxford study suggesting that if unaddressed, the public health and environmental expenses associated with the increased demand for animal products could be up to $1.6 trillion globally by 2050.
So, just exactly how does FAIRR want these companies to source protein products differently?
Straight from FAIRR: The call for sustainable protein supply chains is not a demand for ruling out animal products entirely, though some companies and consumers will identify that as the commitment they want to make. From a health and sustainability perspective, a varied diet that includes some animal products should mean:
♦ Diversifying the range of protein on offer and prioritizing choices that have less impact on health, land, water and the climate: for example, opting for sustainably sourced fish or poultry instead of beef, or beans instead of pork.
♦ Moving away from meat and dairy as the dominant ingredient in every menu option to instead making them an occasional complement to a meal.
♦ Selecting lean cuts for meals that do feature meat, and reducing or eliminating the use of red and processed meat (such as bacon, ham and sausages).
♦ Sourcing food that meets a credible certified standard — like Animal Welfare Approved or the Global Animal Partnership for high-welfare methods of farming in the United States, the Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainable fish, the Soil Association for organic certification in the United Kingdom.
♦ Producing and procuring appealing and accessible alternatives to meat based on plant proteins and new food tech innovations
In my opinion, those options sound like a loud cry to end the consumption of animal products — red meat, dairy, eggs and poultry based on an Oxford study that is highly debated in itself. Even mainstream media quickly grabbed onto the news that a group of investors are asking food companies to sell less meat — switch protein in products to plant-based products.
Despite your buy-in to the Oxford study, have we lost focus of freedom of food choices, the important nutritional value animal-based protein and the accurate science on the true environmental footprint of animal agriculture?