Too Much Meat and How to Fix It

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series




Last Week’s Article discussed the choice between “real meat” and “plant-based meat.” However, the data was inconclusive and the choice wasn’t clear. So where do we go?

Let’s start with the premise that neither one of these methods of protein production is a healthy or ecologically sound practice. This sends us to another line of attack. It doesn’t matter what idea you’re flogging; if your method of achieving it doesn’t work with the general public, you’re wasting your time. In this case, I have a sneaking suspicion that the meat industry is distracting us with this false argument while their profits on both products soar.

A New Approach

I know this next point will sound paternalistic, prescriptive and downright undemocratic, but here it is. If you want action…

Don’t Put the Burden on the Consumer

Governments learned when dealing with the tobacco industry that humans, on a Darwinian level, are a reactive species. We can’t rely on people to change themselves when their environment doesn’t change. If you give the people free choice and plenty of any product at a good price, they will continue to consume it. Only once regulation has cut production and made it prohibitively expensive will public opinion come into line with what everybody knew was right all along.

So with the meat industry, it’s not what people are choosing that is the problem. It’s what’s being offered to them. Our agricultural system is set up, because of who we are subsidizing, to flood the market with cheap meat. Hence, that’s what people eat.

The government’s agriculture policy is completely reactive. We have an incredibly powerful farm lobby with one message. “We have our farms set up like this, you have to help us survive, please, government, make it happen, or no farmer will vote for you.” And government does. So we fill the stores with the stuff we have most of, whatever it is. The price is low, so that’s what people buy. Albertans are not going to like this. Once again this right-wing, free-enterprise province has a key industry that depends on government largesse to function. Ironic, no?

If our economy functioned on the true cost of food it would make meat expensive, which would cut down on usage. Europeans used to eat less meat than North Americans, because their meat was higher priced. Lately these numbers have averaged out. Good for us, bad for them.

Moving Forward

So, where do we go from here? Do not worry; all is not lost. In fact, the majority of food in world is produced by people for people. Small family farms that supply local markets are the norm. We need to move our large production farm/factories back in that direction, using modern technology and knowledge to make it work on the scale we need it.

Luddites Are Right

At least where food consumption is concerned. Fresh and lightly processed is the best food for humans. Higher tech leads you into more tech. It didn’t escape our notice that the latest rollout of a fake meat burger was planned at a tech conference, not a food show.

New Objectives for Farming:

– Does it improve people’s health,

– Does it maintain the land,

– Is it moral,

And, because we’re asking for a change in the system…

– Is it sustainable?

Make Sustainable Methods Work Better

Okay, you want animals treated better. Are you going to do that by giving factory farmers more competition and making their business harder to succeed at? I somehow doubt it. The solution is to change farming in a positive way.

Farm with dignity

To get humans eating properly, we have to change their supply. We have to steward the land, benefit farmers and feed people. One good practice that is ironically only available to the lucky rich and the teeming poor; eat locally in season.

How do we get people to eat less meat, more vegetables? Change the supply chain so everybody is offered decent food.

But if people are eating less meat, what do you replace it with as a source of protein? With fishless fish? (Yes, it really exists.) Give me a break.

Protein = Meat Is a Marketing Ploy

You don’t believe me? What’s your first concern when your teenager says she’s turning vegetarian? “How will you get enough protein?” There is protein in lettuce. Legumes have more protein than meat. Is the solution to turn legumes into meat? Of course not. Eat legumes in as close as possible to their natural form: lentils, dhal, chickpeas, rice.

According to the CBC interview I referenced last week, the first thing people do when they get money is buy iPhones and eat more meat. The abundance of iPhones is another problem, but we need to make it convenient and pleasant for people to resist the extra meat.

Cell-Based Meat

A new technology, not on the market yet, involves meat cells growing real meat in a factory. The meat equivalent to hydroponic farming.

What is the effect on land? All in the “90% less” range for use of water, land, and fossil fuels. At least so the producers say. Who knows? These are the kind of statistics claimed by people who need to believe something and as long as the data supports them, they don’t really care where it came from. However, if I had to guess on a direction for the future, I’d be thinking about this industry.

Meat companies are getting into this method of production in a big way, hoping to change to more sound practices while maintaining the bottom line. One could wish Big Oil would have a similar epiphany.


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