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By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud
A new report published by the market research company Packaged Facts suggests that 23% of American consumers have eaten plant-based meat products — and an additional 37% are interested in trying them. Is this the future?
Bruce Friedrich is the founder and executive director of the Good Food Institute (GFI), an international non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that strives for alternatives to conventional agriculture products. DW's environment podcast team "On the Green Fence" spoke with Bruce about the future of food as part of a series on meat consumption.
DW: What, in your opinion, is wrong with eating meat?
Industrial animal meat production causes more climate change than all forms of transportation combined. The United Nations looked at it. It said whatever issue we're looking at from an environmental standpoint, industrial meat production is one of the top three causes - species loss, soil, desertification, water pollution. Right now, we're all living through COVID-19, and the UN Environment Program just a couple of months ago asked, "How do we prevent the next COVID-19?" They listed seven things, and the first one was that we need less industrial animal meat production.
Ok, so eating meat is harming the Earth and humanity. But that collective knowledge isn't going to stop us, is it?
Part of the problem is that for 50 years, environmentalists and global health experts and animal activists have been begging the public to eat less meat. And it's just not working. It's been a colossal failure. People are eating more and more meat even in developed economies. The UN is predicting we're going to need to produce 50 to 100% more meat by 2050.
So instead of doing that, let's give people everything that they like about meat. Let's give people meat, but let's make it from plants and grow it directly from cells. And we'll have a fraction of the negative environmental consequences, including a fraction of the impact on the climate. It will free up vast quantities of land for carbon sequestration. It won't require any antibiotics. We should be able to get to a place where it tastes exactly the same and gives people everything that they like about meat, but at a lower cost because of the efficiency gains.
But do you seriously believe that the majority of meat eaters will switch to plant-based products voluntarily?
What is meat? It's made up of lipids, amino acids, minerals and water. That's all it is. That stuff exists in plants. Scientists can solve this problem by bio-mimicking meat from plants. And for people who just want to eat animal meat, we can use standard tissue engineering techniques. We can grow meat directly from cells. It will be a healthier and more efficient product that frees up vast quantities of land. It's really a win-win-win. We need a new space race essentially focused on food. The government that manages to divorce meat production from the need for living animals is going to have bragging rights until the end of time.
McDonald's has announced plans to launch a plant-based line of products in 2021. How important is this development?
McDonald's has more restaurants and more revenue than any other restaurant chain on the planet. They introduced America to the chicken nugget, and we expect that they will be introducing millions more Americans to plant-based meat with their plant line. When they do something, they do it deliberately, and they do it on a massive scale. So this means that they are certain there will be sustained demand, and that an assured supply chain will be in place by the time they launch. This is a massive development for the plant-based meat industry.
So aside from McDonald's diversifying its product range, just how great a role do alternative meat products play in the market right now?
This is still very early days - we are still looking at products that are significantly less than 1% of the volume of meat sales. But animal meat production is pretty much as efficient as it is going to get and that is vastly inefficient. The most efficient animal at turning crops into meat is the chicken. It takes nine calories in the form of crops to get one calorie back out from a chicken. So the physiology of the chicken dictates 800% food waste. As plant-based products scale up, prices will come down and they will just become better and better environmentally when compared to industrial animal meat.
What do you see as the main obstacles to getting these alternative products into the mass market?
The only way to get mainstream acceptance is if the products taste the same or better and cost the same or less. And we are not there yet. The products cost more and often don't give meat eaters everything they're looking for from a taste profile perspective.
What about lab-grown meat? Is this a promising product or a dead end in your eyes?
We are very bullish on cultivating meat directly from cells. If you're going to grow a chicken to slaughter weight and again, chicken is the animal that gets to slaughter weight most quickly, you're going to have to plan years in advance to grow the crops, to feed the chicken. You need an entire flock of breeder animals. And even just the process of growing the chicken is going to take you six to seven weeks before it goes to the abattoir. With cultivated meat production, you can get that same growth in six days, not six weeks. So this is something we're super enthusiastic about at this point.
How do you respond to critics who say that fake meat products are pumped full of unhealthy additives?
That's just absurd. When you look at what makes a product healthy or unhealthy, we know that around 97% of people in Europe and North America are not consuming enough fiber. The most important macronutrients to be consuming are complex carbohydrates and fiber. Animal meat has none of either. Plant-based meat is an excellent source of both. We're supposed to be eating less saturated fat, less or no cholesterol and no trans fats.
Plant-based meat vastly outperforms animal meat across all of these metrics as well. A study done by the Stanford School of Medicine showed that in just eight weeks the plant-based products caused statistically significant improvement in heart disease risk factors. They are clearly much healthier.
So when will these plant-based products actually make the inroads you're hoping for?
On our current trajectory, meat production just goes up and up. 2019 was the highest per capita meat consumption in recorded history. This is planet-on-fire stuff. The former head of the World Health Organization said, we are literally looking at the end of modern medicine due to antibiotic resistance.
So, this is a global health crisis and an environmental crisis. We really need more entrepreneurs and more scientists to focus on this. And governments really need to wake up to the fact that this is deserving of lots of resources. Right now. It's just getting drops, but it needs to get a fire hose.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- Hormel, Kellogg's Getting Into the Plant-Based Meat Business ... ›
- Most Meat Will Be Plant-Based or Lab-Grown in 20 Years, Analysts ... ›
- Should Plant-Based Proteins be Called 'Meat'? - EcoWatch ›
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
JasonOndreicka / iStock / Getty Images
Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.