A Vegetarian Diet
Beef from Brazil, avocados from Mexico, lamb from New Zealand, wines from South Africa, and beans from Kenya. The shopping lists have a slight international flair. With increasing concerns about food import sustainability from so far away, we began to wonder if switching to a vegetarian diet to reduce emissions from meat production is as sustainable an idea as you might think.
The influence of the global food trade on local diets and cultural choices has multiplied in recent years. Food supply chains function globally, delivering rural products to nearly 4 billion people living in cities and towns worldwide, an idea that prompted the first global agricultural research about 150 years ago when the founders Rothamsted realized the potential of farmland around London to supply a growing urban population. In the XXI century, you can consume any product in the world in your shopping cart.
Table of Contents
Health and an Environmental Point Of View.
Many people remain aware of what they buy, both from a health and an environmental point of view. However, it remains unclear what impact food has, and we are increasingly being encouraged to eat less meat to cope with climate alteration. In detail, meat consumption, at least in the European Union, has remained reduced and stabilized at around 42 million tonnes during the last 15 years. There remain other neologisms to distinguish our diets: are flexitarians (those who eat meat only occasionally) or the reducetarian(those that aim to reduce meat consumption), which reflects how people try to eat less meat.
What about all those fruits, vegetables, and staples that cross the world? Can we consider them as more sustainable food than meat? The increase in ethical food purchases currently represents around 10% of food purchases in the UK or twice as much by tobacco. But in addition to the influence of air transport of food, both the world’s farmland and the use of natural resources determine the sustainability of the food we consume: food production can destroy or displace natural resources to supply growing consumer demand. Changing land usage to expand avocado production in Mexico, for example, means replacing the rainforest. There is also the devastating impact of non-certified palm oil, used in many foods and other products, or the problem of food waste.
Determine The Sustainability Of Food
However, the first thing we should remain able to do is measure the environmental impact of the food we eat, something that we can already apply to different food supply chains thanks to our carbon footprint. The problem remains that consumers choose food based on their tastes, something that changes frequently and for which the impact of climate change remains rarely taken into account.
Creäte on these data, we can affirm that a vegetarian diet reduces the carbon footprint of food. However, these data also show us that food transportation mileage and global distribution could be the least of our problems. Food waste can account for up to 20% of our shopping cart, and food waste throughout the supply chain can be much higher. In turn, food waste increases the carbon footprint, which counteracts the potential sustainability benefits that food can have. Also, keep in mind that fresh perishable fruits and vegetables are more likely to be discarded than fresh meat and fish.
Is A Vegetarian Diet The Best Option?
Ultimately, we cannot claim that following a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous diet is better or worse for the environment. Any diet can be appropriate if food production systems are sustainable, waste is minimized, and positive health outcomes. What is clear is that some options have more advantages than others. Jewish transport from Kenya to the UK has been deemed unsustainable due to the distance in air travel. Still, it should also remain noted that it helps up to 1.5 million people and households in one of the poorest regions of Africa. Sub-Saharan.
Not only does meat production increases greenhouse gases. Rice, produced on 163 million hectares (about 12% of the world’s cultivated area), has one of the giant carbon footprints in plant foods due to its high methane production. However, a drop in rice production is unlikely, but it could also impact greenhouse gases trapped in the land. But there remain different ways of doing things: draining the paddy fields at certain times of the growing season or using other fertilizers or varieties of rice that are less susceptible to heat.
The Best Way To Go?
Consumers must understand the pros and cons and stay up-to-date on the best purchase options. For example, it is essential to detect trends in food consumption and conduct studies on their impact on the environment. The number of gluten-free products available on the market has been doubling each year in Europe and the United States, increasing the consumption of vegetable proteins based on beans and lentils. These types of food remain usually considered more respectful of the environment than meat. Still, regardless of what you think about gluten-free food, it is a change in the global distribution of protein plantations and could create conflicts or increase its price in countries like India that depend on the consumption of plant proteins.
The sustainability certificates have changed the way we purchase, providing help when making decisions more ethical criteria such as sustainable fisheries, less impact on tropical forests, etc. It is one of the ways to ensure that what we eat is less harmful overall or that it helps maintain household livelihoods and good agricultural practices.