The meatless revolution: Rethinking our food system

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
The meatless revolution: Rethinking our food system

Our food system is broken. The way we produce food, manipulate food, transport food, and decide what food to eat, are having detrimental effects on the climate. In fact, food systems make up 21% to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions and are significant contributors to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Perhaps the biggest problem, however, is livestock, which uses a third of global cropland and contributes to 15% of global greenhouse gas.


If we want to make progress on building a sustainable future, we need to radically transform the food system.



The problem is meat

For Maria Lettini, Executive Director of the FAIRR Initiative, the “single biggest issue with our food system is meat.” Last year, the global meat industry was valued at almost $1 trillion. At such a high value, the industry holds an inordinate amount of power — and that’s in no small part a result of our special, almost sacred, regard for meat (in certain places). In the United States, Missouri became the first state in the country to enact a law that prohibits food makers from using the word “meat” to refer to anything other than animal flesh. Similarly, in France, MPs voted to outlaw the use of terms like “vegetarian sausages” and “vegan bacon,” claiming they mislead shoppers.

It’s clear that we love meat. But with 60% of all mammals on Earth serving as livestock, it is also evident that we cannot rely on our current agricultural model. All of the issues in our food system, Maria says, stem from a “misuse of agricultural commodities.”

rethinking our food system
All of the issues in our food system stem from a misuse of agricultural commodities. #foodsystems #agriculture #food #innovation #transformation #plantbasedmeat #meat #vegan Click To Tweet

Meat-ing in the middle?

Luckily for us, we have Niko Koffeman. Niko is the Founder of the Party for the Animals in the Netherlands – the world’s first-ever political party for non-humans. He is also one of the people behind The Vegetarian Butcher, a “butcher of the future” that sells plant-based meat products. Niko helped to start The Vegetarian Butcher because he wanted to “hack” meat. “We cannot feed the world with meat,” Niko tells us, so he set out to find a way to replicate its taste without having to kill animals.

Since its founding in 2010, The Vegetarian Butcher has expanded across the globe, winning numerous awards along the way, including the Best Vegan Product at the 2016 Vegan Awards and the Most Caring Company award from PETA in the same year.

The Vegetarian Butcher is just one piece of the growing number of meat-substitute providers. With changing consumer tastes, it’s no surprise that the meat-substitute market is expected to reach $8.1 billion by 2026. “You don’t have to be vegan to eat plant-based proteins,” says Maria. A Johns Hopkins study found that two-thirds of US consumers are eating less of at least one type of meat. We’re seeing similar trends in the UK and Europe, where consumers seek protein substitutes that match the taste, texture, and flavor of meat, fish, and dairy, without all the health and environmental implications.

Businesses and governments are also getting with the program. In Germany, for example, politicians proposed raising taxes on meat to the standard rate of 19%, as opposed to its currently reduced rate of 7%. At FAIRR, Maria works with a global network of investors addressing ESG issues in protein supply chains. She points out that companies across the globe are increasingly embracing diversified protein options – from big food manufacturers like Unilever and General Mills to supermarket chains like Carrefour and Albert Heijn. We are even seeing fast-food chains like McDonald’s and KFC launching new plant-based versions of their popular products such as a PLT and plant-based chicken nuggets.

rethinking our food system
Our food system is broken. But there is hope, with players like @vegebutcher and the @FAIRRinitiative chipping away at a system that desperately needs transformation. #foodsystems #transformation #innovation #plantbasedmeat Click To Tweet

So, while it may seem like our world is falling apart and that there’s nothing we can do, there is hope. Companies like The Vegetarian Butcher and the FAIRR Initiative are proof that we are moving in the right direction, chipping away at a system that desperately needs transformation.

For Niko, the next step is looking into how we can produce milk without cows. What’s your next step?

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