The population on earth continues to grow, modern medicine enables that population to live longer, and as a society we ask a lot of the earth’s natural resources and environment to feed that population. Traditional food supplies may one day become scarce and we may have to turn to alternative sources such as in vitro meat or powdered foods to feed the world.
Are we as a society slowly eating our planet to death? And more importantly, are we all aware that’s what is happening?
The sustainability of meat and the detrimental environmental effects of breeding meat for human consumption is becoming a global issue. What was previously a relatively marginal concern has now moved center stage on the global sustainability agenda. No longer is this an issue solely for contemplation by vegans and vegetarians. We are all responsible.
The earth’s population is growing and with it, the appetite for meat consumption. Growing populations of developing countries, who previously had largely meat-free diets, are also increasing their demand for animal products. In the past half-century meat consumption per-capita has more than doubled and the global demand for meat has increased fivefold according to Worldwatch. “That, in turn, has put escalating pressure on the availability of water, land, feed, fertilizer, fuel, waste disposal capacity, and most other limited resources of the planet.”
Our poor planet simply cannot endure this continued abuse. The environmental impacts of the demand for meat products are going to impact our own human future. “Deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease” are all affected.
Meat Free Monday
It’s clear that action needs to be taken to help our planet, but does it mean we all have to stop eating meat?
Back in 2009 the McCartney family created a not-for-profit campaign aimed at promoting awareness of this very issue, called simply ‘Meat Free Monday’.
Can you guess what the initiative suggests? You got it, simply not eating meat at least one day of the week. And I’m pretty sure they won’t be upset if you chose a day other than Monday.
Watch this short video to hear how Sir Paul explains the benefit of not eating meat for just one day of the week:
There are numerous benefits cited on the Meat Free Monday website. In addition to the obvious reduction in harm to our environment, eating less meat will save you money, reduce harm to farmed animals, alleviate world hunger (by reducing the amount of animal feed required) and potentially ensure that there will be no future extinction of animal species due to agricultural intensification.
If you’re already on board with the Meat Free Monday concept and still want to do more, there are other options available. One of the food developments that we reported on recently is powdered foods. These products not only replace meat but food altogether, and are 100% vegan.
There is also also a whole industry based on plant-based proteins. We’re talking about products that look like they contain meat, but actually are made from alternative proteins made from plants.
In the United States, Beyond Meat are another company working hard to reduce people’s dependence on meat. The company are using science to take components from plants, that are also found in meat, and combining them so that they look and feel just like meat. If you consider that an animal is fed on grain, a plant product, they’re simply bypassing the animal stage to get to meat.
And if you’re looking for a meat-free butcher then you can head to the Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis or one of The Vegetarian Butcher stores in Europe.
In Vitro Meat – Grown in the Laboratory
What if you’re truly addicted to meat? Does the very thought of not eating meat have you breaking out in a sweat? (No, not the meat sweats). Well, there could soon be a solution for you too.
The Institute For The Future (IFTF) suggest that in vitro lab grown meat will be a common sight at the butcher counter in ten years time. Researchers have been working on science to produce laboratory grown meat for a little while now. Cultured, or in vitro, meat has been developed from animal stem cells and artificially grown in a laboratory. The first experiment of this kind dates back to 2013 when a single burger patty was produced at a cost of $325,000.
Since that initial experiment there have been several companies continuing to work on in vitro meat production. The startup Memphis Meats made its global debut in February with a meatball that had been produced from non-animal grown meat.
Memphis Meats have just received a $2 million seed round of funding and are expecting to have a range of products available for purchase within three to five years.
Given all the alternatives to meat consumption and a growing awareness of the sustainability issues that meat demand attracts, it’s possible that society has a chance to save our planet before it is too late.
Eating less meat, even for one day of the week, is a simple solution without having to turn to meat substitutes. For the more adventurous, it looks likely that non-animal meat products aren’t too far away.
If you’re interested in even further developments in this field stay tuned. In a followup article we’ll look ten to twenty years into the future and consider the meat options available at the butcher’s counter.