How do you feed an expanding population??
To mark world food day I thought it was about time I addressed the issue of food.
As a keen foody this is a subject which is close to my heart, I love cooking and above all eating good food. The question of food is fairly simple in my own little microcosm, it’s not that hard to feed me and my girlfriend in a sustainable way, even on a meager wage.
But how do we go about making enough food for an ever expanding global population? and importantly; How do we go about it without destroying our natural environment?
In recent years this question has raised itself in conjunction with a number of other key issues; Poverty, Famine, Drought and ever decreasing natural resources. Some of the possibilities that have been proposed include; Hydroponics, vertical farming, GMO crops and even lab manufactured food. The latter has even been described as “the future of food” when it comes to meat.
Meat production is widely considered the most un-sustainable of the traditional farming methods so maybe these new lab manufactured meats will create a new market.
However, I am not so convinced. Artificial meat has been around for years but the products themselves have been, for lack of a better word… Disappointing.
To start with the majority of these products are made from Soya protein. Soya production has been a major cause of deforestation and in itself is unsustainable. Some of the other products available are made from Mushroom protein, now these are far more sustainable, however they still suffer the same problem as the Soya based products. They don’t taste or feel like meat. This is a quite a large drawback for a “meat replacement” product, as you could imagine.
But now it seems there is a new fake meat on the block; the makers claim that they are “indistinguishable” from the real thing and have less than half the ecological impact of real meat. I have not had the opportunity to try these new products, but Bill Gates has and he reckons that they will replace meat entirely in the future.
On his site : http://www.thegatesnotes.com/features/future-of-food Bill shows us a number of very nicely put together infographics and visuals which explain the massive benefit these next generation meats could bring us. Having read through very thoroughly I tend to agree with him, they look like they have the potential, and if their environmental impact is as low as their makers suggest they should become a part of everyones diet. But as with all food: “The proof is in the eating”.
Personally I have doubts that a meat replacement could ever truly replace meat, hopefully we will find a way to sustainably feed the planet so that it can become a choice, rather than the only choice.
In the end, The problem with the situation is meat, or rather Humans relationship with meat. We only need around 12g of dietary protein a day but have evolved with a true love of meat, that means that it is now indispensable to us and herein lies the problem. As the population grows so does our desire for meat. Our global population has now reached a point where the traditional methods of farming are becoming unsustainable. So why don’t we eat less? This is the lesson I think we need to learn, In the not so distant past our forebears did it. Meat was a luxury, something special, a thing to have once in a while and with as much ceremony as possible for a family meal; thereby evolved the great feasts we still practice today; the winter feast (Christmas) the harvest festival, the Sunday roast. I think if we could instill the idea that meat was something special, to celebrate regularly, but not everyday we might solve our problem.
So here are my tips for eating sustainably:
- Eat less meat; try eating less meat, try having maybe one meat dinner per week for example a Sunday roast.
- Buy local;Reduce your food miles and support local organic and free range farms where you live. Local producers will often be better quality than the supermarkets and even a better price. you might even be able to visit the farm to make sure that they produce their wares in the most environmentally friendly way.
- Join or create a food Cooperative; Food co-ops are a great way of you and your community getting great local food for a decent price and helping your local economy.
- Don’t waste food;Only cook or order what you can eat, we waste nearly 40% of our food which is frankly shameful.
- Eat less but better quality food;You’ll still get the nutrition your body needs but you’ll enjoy it more and you wont be lining the pockets of amoral factory farms.
Have a look at Bill Gates articles on the next generation of meat alternatives here: http://www.thegatesnotes.com/features/future-of-food
See what world food day is all about: http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en/