It’s a minefield but it can’t be ignored.
I can’t really write a food blog and not recognise some of the largest global environmental problems we are facing and the impact we’re all having on it.
I’m not an expert
So, I guess I’m setting myself up for a few blows but I’ve done a bit of reading and listened to enough BBC Food Programmes over the years to gain some insight.
And I’ve also had discussions with my vegetarian step-son and his vegan girlfriend in an effort to make myself more rounded on the topic of;
- how we can look after our planet and still feed a growing global population
- what can we do as individuals to make a (positive) impact?
- how our health factors into making changes
But to date, I still haven’t come to a solid conclusion on the exact solution.
So I’m still left wondering…
What can I do?
A knee jerk reaction thrown out there by people is to say become vegan.
But I’m not so sure it is that simple.
- too many eggs would kill you; now they say they’re good for you,
- a glass of red wine a day was good for your heart, then it wasn’t, then it was again (*personally, I’m sticking with the latter for a while),
- chocolate could prevent cancer and boost your mood,
- charcoal is good for you… I prefer it on the BBQ,
- turmeric prevents heart disease… but you can’t just sprinkle it on every now and again to beat the odds,
- it goes on…
You get my point.
We need to stay educated about things, keep learning and probably apply a variety of different steps to make change.
But perhaps going ‘all in’ isn’t the way forward until you have ALL the facts.
Our environment and our global challenges
What we do know and have learnt over the years, is, the world has changed.
- the global population is growing at rapid rate therefore supply and demand has increased,
- diets in developing countries are changing as incomes rise and urbanisation increases,
- it’s a global marketplace i.e. we can eat food from anywhere, anytime of the year.
And we have also learnt the damage to the environment that intensive farming has created in order to satiate all of the above includes;
- loss of wildlife,
- soil degradation,
- water pollution,
- poor animal welfare,
- increased carbon emissions
But just going onto a plant-based diet doesn’t mean some of the environmental damage doesn’t apply.
What do we know about the carbon cost of crops?
We are slowly (but actually, rapidly) losing the carbon in the soil to the atmosphere as intensive crop farms don’t use crop rotation necessary for the soil to recover its nutrients.
We’re sourcing, for example, avocado’s and quinoa from countries that involve a long supply chain to get them to our plate (often out of season) and at very high costs.
And the truth is, if you choose to go vegan you also have to be very conscious of where you source your plant-based food…
- is it organic?
- are you buying it in season?
- is it locally grown?
- does it come from a sustainable farming?
But don’t get me wrong, I know we need to eat less meat for our health and for our planet but it’s not just a ‘meat eaters’ problem.
Because, we all need to ask ourselves these questions AND we all need to be responsible.
So, what can we do?
Although not perfect, the UK has worked hard to ensure we have higher animal welfare standard’s and support sustainable farming, further than many other parts of the world.
And it’s us, the consumer, who can keep driving sustainable farming and animal welfare by deciding where and how we spend.
I do think responsible meat eaters take a lot of pride (I know I’m talking to the converted) with knowing –
- the source of their food and the animal welfare,
- how to use all cuts of the animal,
- how to prepare their food with the care it deserves,
- the nutrients and health benefits meat provide.
So, it’s on all of us to make steps to:
- reduce the carbon footprint we all play a part in,
- continue to support our local farming economy,
- champion animal welfare and to ensure we can feed a growing population.
And it’s just a matter of going about it in the most consciousness manner possible.
My family have made efforts to reduce meat intake, know the source of our food, ensure it’s local etc and that includes for fruit and vegetables.
So, my ‘mission-to-self‘ is to continue to read, listen, learn and adapt, as we learn more on this complex issue.
As mentioned earlier, this is a mind field of topic for a lot of people, including myself, but I think it’s a conversation that we shouldn’t ignore and can continue to discuss.
If you have some interesting and constructive comments to share, pop them in comments or drop me a line.