The Future for the Meat Industry

Bibi van der Zee wrote . . . . . . . .

What are the economics of meat?

Food and farming is one of the biggest economic sectors in the world. We are no longer in the 14th century, when as much as 76% of the population worked in agriculture – but farming still employs more than 26% of all workers globally. And that does not include the people who work along the meat supply chain: the slaughterers, packagers, retailers and chefs.

In 2016, the world’s meat production was estimated at 317m metric tons, and that is expected to continue to grow. Figures for the value of the global meat industry vary wildly from $90bn to as much as $741bn.

Although the number of people directly employed by farming is currently less than 2% in the UK, the food chain now includes the agribusiness companies, the retailers, and the entertainment sector. According to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in 2014 the food and drink manufacturing sector contributed £27bn to the economy, and employed 3.8 million people.

It is not simple to separate out the contribution that meat production makes to this – particularly globally. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation states that livestock is about 40% of the global value of agricultural output and supports the livelihoods and food security of almost a 1.3 billion people.

What about its cultural and social importance?

Cooked meat may have been partially responsible for the large brains that characterise Homo sapiens and have put humans where we are now. Cooking made calories from meat (and from vegetables) easier to consume and absorb than in a raw form.

And the domestication of certain animals – along with the domestication of wild grains and vegetables – marked the beginning of human agricultural history in the “fertile crescent”. Throughout human history the hunting and farming of meat has been part of our stories and mythologies and some of our legal and religious systems; the fatted calf for the prodigal son; the medieval forest laws that created areas where no one but English royalty could hunt; the sacrifical sheep to mark the beginning of Eid Al-Adha; even the roasted wild boars consumed at the end of every adventure by Asterix and Obelix.

But is meat still crucial to human life? Some argue that, just because we’ve always eaten meat, that doesn’t mean we always have to. If we can get all the dietary nutrients and protein that we need elsewhere, should we?

How has meat production changed?

The old-fashioned vision of a mixed farm with wheat and chickens and pigs still exists. More than half of the farms in the US, for example, were small enough in 2012 to have sales of less than $10,000 dollars. But the 20th century saw the application of the principles of the industrial revolution to agriculture – how could inputs be minimised and profits be maximised?

The result was the factory farm, first for chickens, then pigs, and more recently cattle. Producers discovered that animals could be kept inside, and fed grain, and could be bred to grow more quickly and get fatter in the right places. Since 1925, the average days to market for a US chicken has been reduced from 112 to 48, while its weight has ballooned from a market weight of 2.5 pounds to 6.2.

Pig and cattle farming has followed suit. Sows are held in gestation crates for up to four weeks once they are pregnant, and then put into farrowing crates once they’ve had their piglets to prevent them accidentally crushing their young. Industrially reared pigs spend their lives in indoor pens. Cattle farming is now being similarly streamlined, with cows in the last few months of their lives being fattened in feedlots with no access to grass and sometimes no shelter.

What is the environmental impact of our current farming model?

It is extremely difficult to separate out the different impacts of different farming models and types. Many measurements look at agricultural impact without making a distinction between arable v livestock, or industrial v small farms. However, the following information begins to indicate the scale of the problem.

Water use

An influential study in 2010 of the water footprints for meat estimated that while vegetables had a footprint of about 322 litres per kg, and fruits drank up 962, meat was far more thirsty: chicken came in at 4,325l/kg, pork at 5,988l/kg, sheep/goat meat at 8,763l/kg, and beef at a stupendous 15,415l/kg. Some non-meat products were also pretty eye-watering: nuts came in at 9,063l/kg.

To put these figures into context: the planet faces growing water constraints as our freshwater reservoirs and aquifers dry up. On some estimates farming accounts for about 70% of water used in the world today, but a 2013 study found that it uses up to 92% of our freshwater, with nearly one-third of that related to animal products.

Water pollution

Farms contribute to water pollution in a range of ways: some of those are associated more closely with arable farming, and some with livestock, but it’s worth remembering that one-third of the world’s grain is now fed to animals. The FAO believes that the livestock sector, which is growing and intensifying faster than crop production, has “serious implications” for water quality.

The types of water pollution include: nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilisers and animal excreta); pesticides; sediment; organic matter (oxygen demanding substances such as plant matter and livestock excreta); pathogens (E coli etc); metals (selenium etc) and emerging pollutants (drug residues, hormones and feed additives).

The impacts are wide-reaching. Eutrophication is caused by excesses of nutrients and organic matter (animal faeces, leftover feed and crop residues) – which cause algae and plants to grow excessively and use up all the oxygen in the body of wate at the expense of other species. A review in 2015 identified 415 coastal bodies already suffering these problems. Pesticide pollution can kill weeds and insects away from the agricultural area, with impacts that may be felt all the way up the food chain. And although scientists do not yet have full data on the connection between antibiotic use in animals and rising levels of antibiotic resistance in the human population, water pollution by antibiotics (which continue to have an active life even after going through the animal and into the water) is definitely in the frame.

Land use and deforestation

Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources, says the FAO, “with grazing land and cropland dedicated to the production of feed representing almost 80% of all agricultural land. Feed crops are grown in one-third of total cropland, while the total land area occupied by pasture is equivalent to 26% of the ice-free terrestrial surface”.

Climate change

It’s hard to work out exactly what quantity of greenhouse gases (GHG) is emitted by the meat industry from farm to fork; carbon emissions are not officially counted along entire chains in that way, and so a number of complicated studies and calculations have attempted to fill the gap.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture, forestry and other land use accounts for 24% of greenhouse gases. Attempts to pick out the role of animal farming within that have come up with a huge range of numbers, from 6-32%: the difference, according to the Meat Atlas, “depends on the basis of measurement”. Should it just be livestock, or should it include a whole lot of other factors? Different models of farming have different levels of emissions: this has generated an energetic discussion around extensive versus intensive farming, and regenerative farming – a model that aims to combine technologies and techniques to regenerate soils and biodiversity levels while also sequestrating carbon.

What about the giant companies that dominate the sector? A 2017 landmark studyfound that the top three meat firms – JBS, Cargill and Tyson – emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of France.

What next?

Some argue that veganism is the only sane way forward. A study last year showed, for example, that if all Americans substituted beans for beef, the country would be close to meeting the greenhouse gas goals agreed by Barack Obama.

But there are some alternatives. Reducing the amount of meat you eat while improving its quality is advocated by many environmental groups. But where do you find this meat? The organic movement was founded on the pioneering work of Sir Alfred Howard. It is still relatively small – in Europe 5.7% of agricultural land is managed organically – but influential. There are other agricultural models, such as biodynamic farming and permaculture. More recently some innovators have been fusing technology with environmental principles in the form of agroforestry, silvopasture, conservation farming, or regenerative agriculture to create farming methods which all encompass carbon sequestration, high biodiversity and good animal welfare. A recent study showed that managed grazing (a technique which involves moving cows around to graze) is an effective way to sequester carbon. However, while organic and biodynamic meats have labels, regenerative farming, as yet, does not – so you need to investigate your farmer yourself.

Source: Guardian

Chinese-style Vegetarian Dish with Fresh Beancurd

Ingredients

1 pack fresh beancurd (鮮腐竹)
1 abalone mushroom
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 pack green bell pepper
1/2 pck yellow bell pepper
1 slice ginger
4 tbsp oil

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Method

  1. Cut soy sheet into bite-size pieces.
  2. Cut abalone mushroom into thick slices.
  3. Mix the sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Remove the cores and seeds of bell peppers and cut into triangular pieces.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok. Add soy sheet peces and stir-fry until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  6. Add 1 tbsp oil in the wok, saute ginger until fragrant. Add mushroom and bell peppers, stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Mix in the sauce and bring to a boil.
  8. Return soy sheet and toss to combine and heat through. Remove to serving platter. Serve hot.

Source: Hong Kong magazine


Vegan Donut

Donut Time in London, U.K. have cooked up a vegan donut with a Baileys Almande glaze, topped with delicate freeze-dried raspberries and nuts.

The real treat costs £4.50 and will be available only for a limited time of one week.

Tips on Switching to a Meatless Diet

Religious beliefs, philosophical concerns or health may all lead a person to follow a vegetarian diet. But, becoming a vegetarian — especially if you’ve been a lifelong meat-eater — isn’t always easy. Your best bet? Switch to a vegetarian diet in steps. A gradual change will give you time to find vegetarian foods that you enjoy.

Find Foods You Enjoy

A good first step is to review your current diet. Make a list of foods that you regularly eat, paying special attention to vegetarian foods that you like. Next, aim to incorporate these foods — along with a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans — into your eating plan. A good way to include vegetables, for example, is to add them to the foods you already enjoy, such as pasta or rice dishes.

Plant-based, meat-free products offer the opportunity to get the taste and flavor of meat without consuming the real thing. Choices may include soybean proteins, wheat proteins and other vegetable sources. Check your grocer’s freezer department for vegetarian versions of hamburger, sausage, chicken or bacon. These are tasty additions to dishes including chili or casseroles.

If you’re going vegan and eliminating all animal-based food products, look for dairy substitutes including calcium-fortified soy milk and yogurt.

Pick up a vegetarian cookbook or search the internet for vegetarian recipes and meal ideas, and explore vegetarian foods from various global cuisines. While American cuisine can be meat-focused, it’s easy to find ample vegetarian options on many Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern menus. The supermarket is a good place to find vegetarian ingredients and ready-to-eat meatless foods from around the world.

Become a Label Reader

Label reading is essential for vegetarians since some seemingly meat-free foods actually contain animal-based ingredients such as lard, chicken fat or gelatin. Ingredients are listed in order from the largest amount to the smallest. These lists can help you make informed choices and avoid packaged foods made with ingredients you will not eat.

Another reason to read labels is to ensure you’re getting essential vitamins and minerals. Poorly planned diets of any kind can lead to health problems. Most people get iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D from animal products such as meat and milk. It’s important for vegans and vegetarians to include other sources of these nutrients in their daily eating plans.

One good way to do this is to review the Nutrition Facts label. This part of the label lists the serving size, as well as the nutrients in one serving. You can use this information to help ensure you’re choosing foods rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. To limit added sugars, avoid foods that list sugar, corn syrup or honey as one of the first ingredients.

It is a myth that vegetarians can’t get enough protein in their diets. Vegetarians easily can meet their protein needs when they eat a variety of plant proteins and get enough calories. Plant proteins can provide all the essential amino acids that your body needs. Whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts are good sources of protein. Eating a variety of different plant proteins each day helps your body store and use protein.

Healthy Vegetarian Eating Tips

Plan meals around whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. This ensures a variety and balance of nutrients, including fiber, protein and health-promoting phytochemicals.

Cook with heart-healthy fats such as canola and olive oil, which are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Include plant sources of fat, such as avocado, nuts and seeds, to salads and other dishes.

Experiment with soy-based foods such as tofu and tempeh. Try marinating, sauteing, baking and even grilling

Use fresh and dried herbs and spices for extra flavor. Mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, hummus and fresh salsa are flavorful condiments.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis Lessened with Simple Changes to the Diet

In the largest, most up to date study of its kind, researchers from the University of Surrey examined the link between diet and the effective self-management of osteoarthritis. Analysing 68 previous studies in the field, researchers found that a low-dose supplement of fish oil (one and a half standard capsules) could result in pain reduction for patients with osteoarthritis and help improve their cardiovascular health. Essential fatty acids in fish oil reduce inflammation in joints, helping to alleviate pain.

Researchers also found that a reduction of weight for overweight and obese patients and the introduction of exercise tailored to mobility could also help ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Not only does obesity increase strain on joints, it can cause low-grade, systemic inflammation in the body aggravating the condition further.

A calorie restricted diet, combined with strengthening, flexibility and aerobic exercises, was identified as an effective approach in reducing pain in overweight patients. There is no evidence that a calorie restricted diet does anything beneficial for lean patients with the condition. Adopting a healthier lifestyle will also help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood – high blood cholesterol is known to be associated with osteoarthritis.

An increase in foods rich in vitamin K such as kale, spinach and parsley was also found to deliver benefits to patients with osteoarthritis. Vitamin K is needed for vitamin-K-dependent (VKD) proteins, which are found in bone and cartilage. An inadequate intake of the vitamin adversely affects the working of the protein, affecting bone growth and repair and increasing the risk of osteoarthritis.

Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey, said: “The importance of a good diet and regular exercise should never be underestimated. Not only does it keep us fit and healthy, but as we have learned from this study, it can also lessen painful symptoms of osteoarthritis.

“We are what we eat and it is important that we have the right amount of nutrients from our food to ensure that our body systems work as they should.”

Ali Mobasheri, Professor of Musculoskeletal Physiology at the University of Surrey, said: “A combination of good diet and regular exercise are necessary to keep joints healthy; you can’t have healthy joints with just one, you need both.

“Lifestyle should also be considered when attempting to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis. Patients can’t expect miracles with dietary interventions if they are overweight and drink or smoke heavily. Evidence shows that smoking and heavy drinking negatively affects body energy metabolism and inflammatory markers in the liver which may promote inflammation and disease in the body.”

Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis in the world with 18 per cent of women and 9.6 per cent of men aged 60 years and over being diagnosed with this painful condition. True numbers are likely to be higher than that as the global burden of osteoarthritis has been much under-estimated. By 2050 an estimated 130 million people will suffer with osteoarthritis placing a substantial burden on health services. Currently there is no effective treatment for this painful ailment, with only painkillers available to treat symptoms and no known cure.

Source: University of Surrey


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