|January 11, 2014||Posted by Susan Bird under Animals, Eco-friendly, Food & Nutrition, Money, Vegan, Vegetarian|
The smart money these days is going vegan. Veganism is teetering precariously on the cusp of – dare we say it – becoming mainstream. Al Gore recently went vegan, Bill Clinton remarkably still is eating mostly a plant-based diet, and vegan mentions are almost ubiquitous in movies and TV shows these days.
Today, companies are working to create more sustainably produced foods that do not use animals as ingredients. Public demand for such foods is increasing. More critically, the future of the planet may depend on these new foods.
High profile big money investors like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams don’t throw their cash around foolishly. It’s therefore worth paying attention when a handful of promising companies wins them over in a big way. They’ve sunk some hefty funding into a couple of new companies producing faux meat and faux eggs.
These movers and shakers like supporting start-ups with enticing potential, grand ideals and major ambition. The pursuit of plant-based eating provides all this and more.
Why We Must Shift to Sustainable Plant-Based Eating
These investors recognize that the planet cannot sustain its current level of industrialized animal farming. There’s a big problem with our reliance on meat, dairy and eggs, and it’s only going to get worse.
If you’re an animal lover, you already despise the grinding, horrifying cruelty of today’s factory farms. Gone are the bucolic, rolling pasturelands dotted with roaming farm animals that our grandparents remember. Farmers just can’t meet the staggering worldwide demand for meat, eggs and dairy by doing business that way anymore.
To make raising livestock profitable, chickens are caged together so tightly they can’t spread their wings or walk around – ever. Pigs are jammed into gestation crates they cannot turn around in, their teeth and tails cut off without anesthetic to keep them from chewing at one another out of madness or boredom. Cattle are kept constantly impregnated so their milk will never stop flowing, while their newborn calves are carted off to become veal.
If the plight of farmed animals isn’t enough to turn you plant-based, have you taken a close look at the effects of today’s farming practices on the environment? The statistics are sobering:
- 76 percent of all U.S. farmland is used only to graze livestock. That’s 614 million acres of pasture, 157 million acres of public land and 127 million acres of forest.
- In addition to the above, if you also factor in the land used to grow feed for animals, a staggering 97 percent of U.S. agricultural land is devoted to sustaining livestock and poultry.
- Animals raised for food create 89,000 pounds of manure per second, causing extensive groundwater pollution.
- 30 percent of the entire land surface of the Earth is used by livestock.
- 70 percent of Amazon deforestation is directly due to clearing land to provide livestock grazing area.
- 33 percent of the world’s arable land is used to produce feed only for livestock.
- More than 70 percent of the crops we grow in the U.S. are produced just to feed meat-producing livestock.
- 70 percent of available water is used for growing crops, most of which feed livestock, not people.
- It takes 13 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.
Despite all of the above, worldwide meat production will explode from 229 million tons in 2001 to 465 million tons by 2050, while global milk output will increase from 580 million tons in 2001 to 1043 million tons by 2050.
“There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations,” according to a report issued in 2012 by Stockholm International Water Institute.
Our current system simply won’t enable us to feed 9 billion people a the current rate at which we consume meat, eggs and dairy. Crunch the numbers and it becomes disturbingly clear that something must change – soon.
That’s why smart, high dollar investors are eyeing companies which understand this coming crisis and are offering solutions. They’re out in front, paving the way for a plant-based future. Just look at the following two examples.
It‘s Time to Go “Beyond Meat”
Beyond Meat is aiming to become an alternative protein that can compete with — and perhaps one day replace — animal-based protein. It currently produces realistic “chicken strips,” and soon will offer “beef” crumbles.
Twitter’s Biz Stone was thoroughly impressed with the alternative protein possibilities he saw in Beyond Meat, which is why he became an investor.
“These guys are coming at the meat analogue industry not as a novelty kind of thing or hippy dippy,” Stone told Fast Company’s Co.Exist. “They were coming at it from this big science, super practical, scalable angle. They were saying, ‘We want to get into the multi-billion-dollar meat industry with a plant-based meat.’”
Once a few good, sustainably produced meat substitutes land a solid foothold in the market, perhaps the next step is getting the cow, chicken and pig completely out of the food chain? Yes, please.
The Incredible, Edible Egg (Substitute)
Hampton Creek Foods wants to revolutionize the egg industry by making eggs unnecessary. Early indications are that it is well on its way with a product called, coincidentally,”Beyond Eggs.”
Interest in Hampton Creek Foods ratcheted up considerably after an investment conference in 2012. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Microsoft’s Bill Gates taste tested two blueberry muffins. Neither could differentiate between the regular one and the muffin made with Beyond Eggs. That experience sold Gates, a fan of sustainably produced foods. He is now an investor.
Other major financial players are also betting big on Hampton Creek Foods. Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla’s venture capital fund has sunk a cool $3 million into the company. PayPal’s Peter Thiel is another backer. The handwriting is clearly on the wall — a shift away from animal-based foods is happening, and these major investors know it.
The egg industry is worried enough about Beyond Eggs that it reportedly is buying Google ads that will show up when you search for terms that match Hampton Creek Foods, its products or possibly even its senior employees. Scared much, egg guys? Maybe you should be.
The future is plant-based, if we are to have any shot at being able to feed everyone. Let’s hope enough people realize it in time.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
|December 22, 2013||Posted by Susan Bird under Food & Nutrition, Green Living, Vegan, Vegetarian||
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, a vegetarian attended an NFL football game. “Is there any vegetarian or vegan food here?” she may have asked. All her friends turned to look at her, dumbfounded. Perhaps they hoisted their all-beef hot dogs and cheeseburgers into the air, pointed their big foam fingers at her and giggled at such a silly notion.
Thankfully, those days are over. NFL stadiums around the country are now well aware that America’s diet is shifting toward more healthy, or at least more animal-friendly, options.
Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of football season, there’s no better time to salute the 10 most veggie-friendly NFL stadiums around the country. We’ll adopt the first five from PETA’s just-released Top 5 Vegetarian-Friendly list for 2013, and move on from there:
1. Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia Eagles
PETA has voted the Eagles’ home stadium into the number one spot for four years in a row, and it’s easy to understand why. Vegetarians and vegans have a terrific smorgasbord to choose from at the Lincoln Financial Field general concessions vendors. Try a black bean burger, a garden burger, a vegan steak sandwich or veggie tacos. How about breaded eggplant hoagies, hummus and chips, and fresh fruit platters? The choices will make your head spin.
2. Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City Chiefs
The munchies available for Kansas City fans to chow down on sound pretty darn tasty. Go for the lentil burger, the veggie burger, the Sloppy Jane, as well as vegetarian standbys like cheese pizza, cheese-covered nachos and popcorn.
|September 28, 2013||Posted by Susan Bird under Animals, Endangered, Environment, Wildlife|
People love pandas. They’re cute, cuddly and desperately endangered. We want to save them. Our kids beg us to save them. Nevertheless, one journalist recently asked the provocative question: Should we just give up on the panda and let it die out?
Timothy Lavin, news writer for Bloomberg, caused a bit of controversy recently when he published an article called “Why I Hate Pandas and You Should Too.” Written in response to the joyous proclamations that a new baby panda had been born at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo, Lavin says we’re wasting money, time and effort trying to save pandas.
It’s an interesting perspective. Should we go “all out” to save a species — especially an adorable one — or spend that money where it might do more good overall for other species?
Lavin believes pandas should be left to go extinct because they are “evolutionary failures.” Put a fork in them, they’re done. They don’t reproduce reliably, they don’t survive mostly on meat like other bears and they’re expensive to maintain.
Lavin thinks panda lovers need an intervention right about now. He says conservation “requires making tough choices. Pandas had a pretty good run for 3 million years. All that money is better spent on preserving diverse habitats rather than on a single hopeless species.”
Almost No Pandas Left Out There
The panda, known as the Giant Panda to differentiate it from its cousin the Red Panda, lives in only a few mountainous areas in China’s Yangtze Basin region. Development, farming and deforestation have stripped it of nearly all its natural habitat.
The Giant Panda is listed as “endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. There may be as few as 1,600 left in the wild. Only about 61 percent of the world’s remaining wild pandas – about 980 — live in a protected status on 50 Chinese reserves.
Pandas are carnivores, but oddly about 99 percent of their diet consists of bamboo — lots and lots of bamboo. Bamboo is not nutritionally dense, so pandas must eat 26 to 84 pounds of it every day.
Panda Haters Be Hatin‘
As Lavin points out in his article, he’s not the first to suggest that we end heroic efforts to save the panda. Chris Packham, a British television wildlife expert, told The Telegraph in 2009: “Here’s a species that of its own accord has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It’s not a strong species.” Packham’s verdict: “I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go with a degree of dignity.”
Others have said much the same, sometimes harshly:
- Brian Barrett and Sam Biddle, writing for Gizmodo: “Nature has made it clear in no uncertain terms that pandas need to die. Now.”
- David Plotz, writing for Slate: “Pandas are not ill-natured. They are worse: They are no-natured. Drearier animals you cannot imagine. They are highly anti-social, detesting interaction with other pandas and people… Good riddance to the semi-bear.”
- Lu Zhi, Beijing University panda expert, has said that trying to reintroduce pandas to the wild is as “pointless as taking off the pants in order to fart.”
- David Bellamy, wildlife expert, has said, “You can’t release them back into the wild if there is no wild left and we shouldn’t rear animals just to put them into cages.”
The point here, ultimately, is that humans have so ruined the panda’s habitat that there is almost literally no place where captive-reared pandas could successfully be returned to the wild. That leads some to ask: Why are we trying so hard to make more of them?
Lavin felt the wrath of the panda-loving public following publication of his anti-panda article. “Have you no soul?” a fellow customer in a market asked him, according to mynorthwest.com. Lavin probably does have a soul, but he’s giving voice to thoughts that perhaps others won’t yet acknowledge: Should there be a point at which enough is enough?
Why the Panda Deserves Our Help
Defenders of the panda say “No” — if we go down, we will go down fighting. They charge that naysayers like Lavin write stories like these “mostly because it is easier and garners more page views to be boldly wrong than boringly right.”
Pandas are not “evolutionary failures.” To the contrary, we failed them. Before we came along, for three millions years or so, pandas sustained themselves admirably by mating and reproducing exactly as they do now, eating exactly what they eat now. The panda’s unique proclivities became “a problem” for their survival only after people arrived.
We then eradicated their habitat, wiped out their food supply, poached them for their pretty hides, crammed them into preserves and watched their number dwindle to perilously low levels.
“The panda can’t start giving birth more often because it’s critically endangered; that’s not how this works,” noted Dan Nosowitz of PopSci.com. “If you were told that the human race now suddenly depends on being able to give birth every other month and subsisting on oak leaves, it’s not like you could just do that.” Well said, Dan. The panda’s not to blame for this mess. We are.
Yet the question lingers. It’s sort of a “Sophie’s Choice” scenario: If we can do more good for other species with the millions we’re spending on pandas, should we cut our losses, consign the panda to history and help the others instead?
It’s a sad state of affairs when humanity has so destroyed an ecosystem that it’s necessary to debate the wisdom of attempting to save a beloved animal. Oh pandas, we do adore you – but if you have no habitat in which to survive, how can we save you? Many of us still want to try.
Photo credit: Thinkstock