Ethical Shopper

Ethical Shopper

Organic Food Is Marketing Hype? - Intelligence Squared Debate

Eating organic used to be a fringe commitment. Not anymore. The idea that the adage “you are what you eat” actually has merit – that America’s industrialized food system is making consumers – literally, consumers – obese, diabetic and primed for heart disease – has converted millions of us into pursuers of the American Organic Dream: Eat Organic To Live Longer and Better. But many aren’t buying it. Most consumers, for example. Although sales of organic food increased sixfold over the last decade, organics are still a tiny fraction of the food Americans eat. Perhaps that’s because organic food can cost up to twice as much as conventionally grown? Perhaps it’s because – as critics of the organic food movement argue – there’s just not a lot of solid evidence that going organic makes you any healthier. This side says the race by food makers to slap labels like “farm-grown,” “free-range,” and “all natural” is more about catching a fad than upgrading our food in any meaningful way. Should we all go organic, and pay the extra that it costs, because few things are more important than our health? Or is the organic movement, and the firms cashing in on it, hawking a hoax, or at least grossly overstating the biological benefits to be had when the chicken that we eat is raised with some more legroom?

Source: Intelligence Squared Debates

Don't Eat Anything with a Face? - Intelligence Squared Debate

According to a 2009 poll, around 1% of American adults reported eating no animal products. In 2011 that number rose to 2.5%--more than double, but still dwarfed by the 48% who reported eating meat, fish or poultry at all of their meals. In this country, most of us are blessed with an abundance of food and food choices. So taking into account our health, the environment and ethical concerns, which diet is best? Are we or aren't we meant to be carnivores?


Neal Barnard, M.D., is adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He guides numerous clinical trials investigating the effects of diet on body weight, chronic pain and diabetes. Barnard's most recent study of dietary interventions in Type 2 diabetes was funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has authored dozens of scientific publications, 15 books for lay readers, and has hosted three PBS television programs on nutrition and health, ranging from weight loss to Alzheimer's prevention. As president and founder of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Barnard has worked on efforts to overhaul federal dietary guidelines. He also leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition and higher ethical standards in research.

Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has been called "the conscience of the food movement" by Time magazine. Since the mid-1980s, Baur has campaigned to raise awareness of what he sees as the abuses of industrialized factory farming and a system of cheap food production. His book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (2008), a national bestseller, investigates the ethical questions surrounding beef, poultry, pork, milk and egg production.


Chris Masterjohn is a nutritional sciences researcher who is currently examining the physiological interactions between fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published six peer-reviewed publications and has submitted one manuscript for review. He also writes two blogs:The Daily Lipid and Mother Nature Obeyed, which is hosted by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Joel Salatin is a full-time farmer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. A third-generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents' ideas. The farm serves more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets and 50 restaurants, through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs. Salatin has written for magazines such as Stockman Grass Farmer, Acres USA andFoodshed. He is the author of eight books, including Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (2012). The family's farm, Polyface Inc., was featured in the new New York Times bestseller The Omnivore's Dilemma, by food writer Michael Pollan, and in the award-winning documentary film Food Inc.

Source: Intelligence Squared Debates

Ditching in Droves: Why Canadians Are Dropping Milk


According to seasoned agriculture journalist Ed White, "It's a good time to be an alternative protein." His comment is in response to the growing popularity and demand for non-animal derived meat and dairy products in Canada.

The growing popularity is, as expected, causing a significant decline in meat and dairy consumption. In fact, consumption of fluid dairy (i.e. milk) has decreased a dramatic 25 per cent in the last 20 years as consumers switch to alternatives such as almond, soy and rice milk.

The decline is so striking that the Dairy Farmers of Canada commissioned a survey to find out why milk drinkers are ditching it in droves. The survey comprised 6,800 Canadian households and has some enlightening findings.

The two age demographics to see the greatest decline in milk drinking? Middle-aged empty nesters, who reported almost completely dropping milk, and families with children under the age of 12, who comprised a surprising one-quarter of the decline. The reason? A revealing 10 per cent of non-milk drinkers stated they had gone vegan -- a word almost unheard of just a few years ago. Eight per cent said they no longer wanted to support an industry whose practices they regarded as cruel.

That cruelty was on stark display last June when Mercy For Animals Canada released undercover footage from inside Canada's largest dairy factory farm in Chilliwack, B.C. The footage showed workers viciously kicking, punching and beating cows in the face and body with chains, metal pipes, rakes and canes; sick and injured cows suffering from open wounds, oozing infections and painful injuries left to suffer without proper veterinary care; workers using chains and tractors to lift sick and injured cows by their necks into the air; and workers poking and squeezing festering wounds, ripping clumps of hair out of the cows' sensitive tails, and punching bulls in the testicles.

Nearly all of Canada's dairy cows live in intensive confinement. Nearly 75 per cent of them spend their lives chained to a concrete stall, and all of them suffer the repeated trauma of having each and every one of their calves torn away from them immediately after birth so their milk can instead be sold for human consumption.

According to a study from 1992, dairy cows produce between seven to 14 times more milk than they would naturally. The energy demands of such an enormous milk output, together with the demands of constant pregnancy are unsustainable through diet, forcing cows to draw upon their own body fat for energy. The problem is so extensive that livestock auctions have even developed a category for these worn-out, emaciated and weak animals: C3, which stands for clunkers, canners and cripples.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada seem convinced that if they just throw enough money into advertising, they can shove these horrors back under the rug. The national policy, lobbying and promotional organization (yes, that's how the Dairy Farmers of Canada actually refer to themselves) spends an estimated $80-$100 million each year on promotion and advertising, including TV, magazine, social networking and YouTube ads, national in-store media campaigns, and video and banner ads on websites such as Allrecipes and

This on top of the less savoury co-opting of over 1,500 foodie bloggers, maintaining over 26 public websitesthat promote dairy consumption, and cultivating sponsorship agreements that push milk into the hands of marathoners (because who doesn't want a carton of chalky chocolate milk after a grueling, stomach-churning run?). Remember those kids under 12 whose families don't want them drinking milk? The Dairy Farmers of Canada lobby them heavily away from their homes by installing milk drink machines in their schools, encouraging participation in World Milk Day which instructs kids to drink milk every day, and hitting up their teachers by supplying curriculum-based teaching materials and giving free teacher workshops.

They've even resorted to fear-mongering. At the National 4-H Members Forum in Mississauga, Ontario recently, a dietician was brought in to warn young people about "misinformation on the internet." The dietician strongly cautioned the young listeners to think twice before "embarking on the latest fad diet and vegan lifestyle," which she suggested, could lead to eating disorders.

Never mind that there's no truth to the claim. In fact, a study recently published in the British Medical Journal tracked 61,000 women and 45,000 men for a whopping 20 years and found that high milk intake (ie. three or more glasses of milk a day -- as the Dairy Farmers of Canada recommend in their 26 websites) was linked to higher mortality in some men and women. For women, consumption of milk was also associated with an increased risk of sustaining a fracture.

Despite the fear-mongering and the tens of millions spent to peddle dairy, the Canadian public can now see the dairy industry for what it is. And no amount of advertising will make them un-see it.

Source: The Huffington Post

Local activists are paying with their life to protect their forests in Peru

By Alex Soros
Monday 17 November 2014 16.30 GMT

Developed world’s greed for hardwood, palm oil, natural gas and beef is killing people on environmental frontiers.

Edwin Chota, a Peruvian anti-logging activist, was killed earlier this year. He had asked the government for help after receiving death threats and also provided pictures of those who had threatened him. Photograph: Scott Wallace/Getty Images

Edwin Chota was killed in the forest he had fought to protect.

The Peruvian environmental activist had appealed to his government for help after receiving death threats from the illegal loggers that plagued the area around his village, deep in the Amazon rainforest. And yet, in September, he and three other prominent members of the Peruvian Ashéninka community were ambushed and shot on a jungle trail as they travelled to meet fellow activists from neighbouring Brazil. Chota’s widow journeyed six days by river to the regional capital to report their deaths.

Chota’s death is a reminder of the price that local activists in some of the world’s most remote areas are paying as they fight to defend their communities from exploitation and industrialisation. Global demand for natural resources is growing, and indigenous people are receiving little protection from those who would destroy their land, forests, and rivers. Instead, they are being murdered with impunity at an alarming rate, sometimes with the complicity of government authorities.

Peru is a prime example. It ranks fourth in the world for murders of environmental activists (after Brazil, Honduras, and the Philippines), with 57 activists in the country killed from 2002 to 2013, according to campaigners Global Witness. More than half of the country is still covered by rainforest, but those forests are being cut down at an accelerating rate to satisfy voracious international demand for timber and related products.

Sadly, this phenomenon is not confined to Peru. According to Global Witness, from 2002 to 2013, more than 900 people in 35 countries died defending the environment or fighting for the right to their land. The death toll has risen sharply in recent years. Worldwide, activists are murdered at an average rate of two per week. Given that such deaths tend to go unreported, the real number could be even higher. In only 10 cases have the perpetrators been brought to justice.

The deaths of environmental activists like Chota are not the result of obscure disputes in wild, faraway places. They are a direct consequence of the developed world’s unrelenting demand for products like hardwood, palm oil, rubber, natural gas, and beef, and of poor regulation in the markets that supply them. Wood from a single tropical cedar tree can sell for $9,000 in the United States. A mahogany tree can fetch $11,000. These are amounts that some in rural, impoverished regions might kill for.

Peru has pledged to protect its forests, which cover some 60% of the country and are among the largest and best preserved in the world. Land-use and forest-related activities account for about half of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions, and earlier this year, just weeks after Chota’s murder, Peru’s government entered into an agreement with Norway, with the Norwegian authorities agreeing to pay up to $300m over the next six years if Peru curbs deforestation.

But lax laws, poor enforcement, endemic corruption, and weak land rights for Peru’s 300,000 indigenous people threaten to thwart good intentions. Securing indigenous rights to land is one of the most effective ways to curb deforestation, but the Peruvian government is sitting on unprocessed claims to 20-million hectares. These communities need better support and protection, so that they can continue to keep their forests intact.

A naturalist and expedition guide stands on a pile of timber illegally logged from the Amazon rainforest in Peru. Photograph: Jason Edwards/Corbis

Next month, Peru is hosting a major United Nations climate change conference in Lima, and efforts to protect the world’s forests are expected to take center stage – even as those who are physically standing in the way of deforestation are being killed. The government should recognise environmental defenders’ heightened vulnerability and uphold their rights to the land they are protecting.

That means scaling up efforts to combat illegal logging and pervasive corruption, improving forest governance (as the US-Peru free-trade agreement stipulates), and revoking recent laws that have weakened environmental protection. The alternative is clear: more death on Peru’s environmental frontiers.

Alex Soros is the founder of the Alexander Soros Foundation, which recognises environmental defenders with an annual prize. Edwin Chota and the three other murdered Ashéninka activists were awarded the 2014 prize posthumously.

• Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2014.

 Source: The Guardian

The Solution to Climate Change Isn't Difficult -- It's Delicious

By , Founder and President, Mercy for Animals
Posted: 12/01/2014 2:12 pm EST Updated: 12/02/2014 11:59 am EST

Solution aversion. That's what Duke University researchers call our society's collective refusal to address climate change. Their recent study found that people don't deny a warming earth on scientific grounds -- they deny it because they just don't like the solutions.

But what if the solution to climate change isn't actually burdensome? What if instead of complicating and disrupting our lives it enriches them and makes us happier and healthier? What if it's delicious?

We don't have to relinquish our cars, move to the woods, and get off the grid to conquer climate change. The real solution is simple and easy: eat plants.

Though the figures vary, World Bank scientists have attributed up to 51 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to the livestock industry. The cows, pigs, chickens and other animals raised for food across the globe -- and the industry of which they're a part -- contribute more to rising temperatures and oceans than all the planes, cars, trucks, boats and trains in the world.

How could this possibly be the case? Much of the impact stems from the process of growing grains to feed the many billions of animals that eventually reach our plates. Fields of corn and soy are heavily doused with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides and then plowed, irrigated, harvested and transported with fossil fuel-powered machines.

Once these grains reach the farms, which are almost always massive facilities heated, cooled and lit by fossil fuels, animals digest them, and in the process, belch and excrete methane. Many times more potent than CO2 in climate change-causing potential, methane exudes from the animals and their waste, which is often stored in enormous, open-air pits. Finally, the animals are transported in trucks to petro-powered slaughterhouses, packed, shipped and stored with even more emissions.

All told, this process makes meat, dairy and other animal products far more carbon-intensive than producing plants for humans to eat directly. It takes an average of 28 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of meat protein for human consumption. Compare that to just 3.3 fossil fuel calories to produce a calorie of protein from grains.

That's why the United Nations has stated plainly that "a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products" is necessary to avert the worst environmental impacts -- including climate change.

This sounds daunting, but would such a global shift be so difficult? Is it something we should dread or embrace?

It turns out that eating vegan has never been easier or more enjoyable. The number of vegan and veg-friendly restaurants is skyrocketing across the world, as is the number, variety and quality of vegan products, like plant-based milks and meat alternatives appearing in grocery stores everywhere. Vegan food is quickly becoming a culinary phenomenon, enchanting even world-renowned chefs at the most famous restaurants.

But it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, and it's certainly not a rarity. A bowl of rice, beans and veggies is one of the cheapest meals you could eat, and vegan fare is a feature of almost every global cuisine: Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian and even Italian.

Going vegan brings other benefits, too. Eating plants spares animals from a lifetime of suffering on factory farms and from often painful deaths. Cows, pigs, chickens and the other animals whose bodies and by-products we eat are just as sensitive and intelligent as the dogs and cats we love. It's also the healthiest diet: Those who cut out meat, dairy and eggs live longer and enjoy far lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

In the race against climate change, there's certainly a place for electric cars and scaling back consumption. But the best solution requires neither cutting-edge technology nor a reclusive, monk-like lifestyle. It's something every individual can do -- and it's something we can all savor at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Nathan Runkle is the founder and president of Mercy For Animals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

Source: The Huffington Post

New Zealand a World Leader in Animal Welfare

Tuesday, 25 November 2014, 9:53 am
Press Release: World Animal Protection

New global index shows New Zealand a world leader in animal welfare.

The Animal Protection Index, which ranks 50 countries across the world on their animal welfare standards, places New Zealand (along with the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland) in first place.

The Index is a breakthrough project by global charity, World Animal Protection, with the aim of improving the welfare of animals through policy and attitudinal change; and ultimately through enhanced legal protection.

Bridget Vercoe, Country Director at World Animal Protection in New Zealand, says:

“It is extremely pleasing to see New Zealand ranked up there with the highest index score. This is something we can all be very proud of.”

“Whilst this is great news for New Zealand, there are still improvements to be made in animal welfare. The Animal Welfare Act, which is currently under review, is a good example of how New Zealand is continuing to make positive change for animals. To stay at number one, it is vital we keep progressing in matters of animal welfare.”

“World Animal Protection looks forward to working with the Government to ensure New Zealand maintains its leadership position.”

For The Animal Protection Index countries were ranked according to a number of indicators.These indicators include:

The recognition of animal sentience (animals can feel pain and suffer); the presence of effective governance structures; implementation of animal protection policy; legislation and standards; provision of humane education and promotion of effective communication and awareness. Animals used in farming; animals in captivity; companion animals (pets); animals used for draught or recreational purposes; animals used in scientific research and wild animals are each considered separately.

The Animal Protection Index findings are presented on an interactive website ( where you can explore countries in detail and compare and contrast policy and legislation around the world.

Full New Zealand Country Report

Tomato Sushi - Sustainable Vegan Tuna

Sushi is Awesome. Extinction is Not.

Tuna is by far the most popular fish used in sushi, yet experts warn that Bluefin Tuna – "The King of Sushi" – are so overfished that the species may be on the brink of extinction. Tomato Sushi have created a sustainable, plant-based alternative to vulnerable tuna, with an authentic look and a great taste.

Yes, Tomato Sushi is made of tomatoes, but the texture and flavor of the tomato are transformed through sous vide cooking. Tomato Sushi was designed to be a delicious alternative to ahi tuna with a savory, meaty taste. It’s still a tomato, but its appearance and texture are almost indistinguishable from raw tuna.

Learn more @

How to Turn Tomatoes Into Bluefin Tuna

New Batch of Meat Alternatives Hits the Market


By on October 16, 2014

So you’re cutting back on steak to lower your cholesterol or your carbon footprint but you don’t want to live on beans and tofu alone. Can you subsist on veggie burgers with the flavor profile of emulsified paper? And should that faux-chicken really have 37 ingredients? What is autolyzed yeast extract and “natural vegan flavor” anyway?

Just 5 percent of Americans are vegetarian and far fewer identify as vegan. But many people are trying to eat lower on the food chain, say, one day a week or before 6pm. And the demand for meatless “meat” appears to be growing; according to one market study, 36 percent of Americans now say they seek it out. Gardein, one of the larger companies making veggie burgers and meat-free chicken, told the Des Moines Register recently that it “expects $100 million in retail sales this year, jumping to almost $1 billion within 15 years.” The company’s products are found in more than 22,000 supermarkets, including Kroger, Target, Whole Foods, and Safeway. Meanwhile, startups like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek are working to bring products like imitation chicken and eggless mayonnaise to the masses.

Meat substitutes have their fans, but they’ve also caught heat in recent years for being bland, highly processed, and further away from “real, whole food” than many would prefer. This got us wondering: There’s an abundance of local, pasture-raised meat out there for omnivores. Are artisanal, local, and small-batch meat substitutes changing the face of the meatless world in the same way? As it turns out, there are some companies putting out animal-free products that are tasty and sustainable.

Carving Wheat, Not Meat

In the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, Sadrah Schadel and Mike Woliansky are determined to take factory-farmed meat out of dinner. In April 2014, the owners of No Evil Foods started selling seitan-based Italian sausage, roast, and chorizo (seitan is derived from wheat protein). The couple uses all organic spices and flavorings, and use strain of wheat grown in Europe that is also certified non-GMO. The goal is to keep ingredients simple and recognizable. Their tagline: “It isn’t fake meat. It’s real food.”

“I used to think that if something was plant-based and vegetarian it was good for me. But that isn’t true,” says Schadel. “I was seeing a lot of vegetarian mystery meats.”

Schadel started looking for vegetarian solutions that weren’t heavily processed. Six years ago, she came across the ancient Buddhist tradition of mixing wheat proteins with water to mimic the taste and texture of meat. “They wanted their meat-eating guests to feel comfortable at the table,” says Schadel. “We also want to create more options so that people who don’t eat meat and people who do can both be satisfied.”

But making seitan that actually tasted like pork wasn’t easy. Schadel had never eaten meat, and it had been years since Woliansky. Neither felt qualified to know what would appeal to a carnivore.

“We thought about trying meat to see if we had the flavor right, but in the end we didn’t,” says Woliansky. “Instead, we leaned on our friends who are meat eaters and they did a lot of sampling.”

To build their recipes, the couple read online sausage-making forums and meat-focused message boards, studying which spices people used and how fans described the taste. The two hit on something. After being in business for only six months, No Evil Foods is up for a Martha Stewart American Made Award.

“People come up to us at the farmers’ market and say they haven’t had chorizo as good as ours since their grandmother made it,” says Schadel.

Many of the company’s customers are not vegetarians. And Woliasnky and Schadel aren’t in business to talk anyone out of their diet. “We think there is room for both (sustainably raised) meat and seitan. But we can’t ignore the environmental impact that meat has either,” says Woliansky. Over 95 percent of U.S. livestock is raised industrially and it comes with a long rap sheet—from hazardous manure lagoons to antibiotic resistant bacteria. “And then there’s the fact that meat production accounts for at least 14.5 percent of greenhouse gases estimates (The Worldwatch Institute says that number could actually be much higher, closer to 51 percent).”

But the idea behind No Evil Foods isn’t just to give consumers more choices. Woliansky and Schadel want to push vegetarian food to a higher standard as well.

“Judging by the amount of growth I’ve seen in meat alternatives in my lifetime, there will continue to be more options,” says Schadel. “But I hope (the market) grows in ways that aren’t inadvertently doing damage to your health and the planet.” Take soy products, for instance. The demand for soy has led to millions of acres of deforestation in the Amazon and chemical-intensive monoculture farming across the United States. (That said, the majority goes to feed animals, not people).

Fish that Grows on a Vine


Six years ago, Chef James Corwell had the culinary version of a come-to-Jesus moment in the Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Before it was even time for lunch, he had watched bidders from around the world buy up enough tuna to fill two warehouses the size of football fields in a frenetic turnover that happens at Tsukiji six days a week, all year round.

“I asked myself how the oceans could keep up. And the answer was that they couldn’t,” says Corwell, a certified master chef from the American Culinary Federation.

And he’s right. More than 85 percent of all the world’s fisheries have already been depleted or soon will be. The situation is especially severe for popular fish like tuna. In 1950, the worldwide tuna catch totaled 660,000 tons and most of that went into cans and casseroles. Today, that number has spiked to 7 million tons, largely due to demand at sushi bars.

After Corwell returned from Japan, he spent five years experimenting with tuna alternatives. By gently cooking tomatoes sous vide in a blend of herbs, tamari, rice wine vinegar, and a dash of sugar, Corwell recreated the red-pink jewel “flesh” of tuna. Visually Tomato Sushi looks almost indistinguishable from the real thing. And the taste, if not exactly a match for high-grade tuna, has the umami notes of fish.

Corwell teamed up with Chef Brian Doyle to market Tomato Sushi to grocery stores, Silicon Valley tech campuses, to-go sushi counters, and even hospitals, where doctors don’t want to serve mercury-heavy foods to patients (tuna is at the top of many seafood watch lists for mercury contamination).

“This is not a second-class citizen sushi concoction like avocado and cucumber rolls,” says Corwell.

“You put the word vegan on something and people think it’s disgusting,” says Doyle. “But even people who don’t like tomatoes like tomato sushi.”

Tomato Sushi hopes to raise $25,000 on Kickstarter by October 17 in order to expand the company’s distribution and product line. (There’s talk of an eel roll made with eggplant.) The two founders would like to use some of that money to build relationships with small-scale, local farmers and greenhouse growers who can supply them with organic tomatoes all year long.

Adam Weiss recently joined Tomato Sushi as Creative Director. Among the three men he’s the only vegan, and he says that’s a good thing. “We need more non-vegans making vegan products, not just people who haven’t had meat or fish for 12 years.”

Like Schadel and Woliansky, neither Corwell nor Doyle are trying to make anyone into a vegetarian. But it’s clear they hope to spur conversation. “We want people to think about why this product exists,” says Doyle.

Source: Civil Eats

Is Meat Sustainable? Ethiclee Founders discuss in the NZ Herald

You can read the full article in the New Zealand Herald here.

Veg and three meat

By Pippa Grierson, Wednesday Oct 29, 2014

Each year, New Zealanders chew their way through three times the world average meat consumption. Is it sustainable, and what are the alternatives?

The way we eat food is changing. Meat is no longer just meat - it can be organic, free-range, wild, farmed, ethical, cruelty free - the list of labels goes on. Enter the generation of consumers who demand to know just what they are eating.

Hayden and Shama Lee

Hayden Lee is a classic example of this sort of thinking. He has gone from eating meat from the supermarket to now only consuming "pest" meats of New Zealand. Pest meats are not roadkill, but instead wild, introduced animals which are damaging our native environment; things like deer, rabbits, pigs and goats.

Lee is a lover of meat, but says as his awareness of the living situations of animals changed so did his eating habits - he moved away from cage and intensely farmed products to free-range and organic meats. As he continued to learn about the environmental impact of these products, it prompted the further shift to pest-control meats - which he says is a stepping stone to vegetarianism.

"It has been said that the single most effective thing one can do to combat climate change is to stop consuming meat and dairy - there's truth to that. But of course that's unpleasant to many of us so we continue to focus on transport and energy," says Lee.

Lee's meat is sourced from the New Plymouth company Moreish, a specialist in wild game meats. Lee says he has just one qualm: "If everybody switched to eating pest-control meats there could be the possibility of them becoming farmed... which defeats the purpose."

Lee's wife, Shama, has taken it one step further, becoming vegetarian and focusing on ethical foods - so much so that she has started her own company, Ethiclee. She launched a website called The Ethical Shopper, to help Kiwis buy ethical, fair-trade, vegan, vegetarian, organic, non-GMO or cruelty free food.

Shama became a vegetarian because she had difficulties reconciling the meat on her plate with the live, sentient animals she saw around her, "I felt if I don't need it, I don't want it." Following the completion of her MBA with a thesis on ethics and consumerism, she decided to offer the public the option of buying products which fulfilled their needs both ethical and physical.

Lee felt there was a disconnect between consumerism and ethics when it comes to buying products in New Zealand, so her work is aiming to provide that link for the morally aware shopper. As a vegetarian she has no problem with people who eat meat and, in fact, supports those who have seriously thought about their meat consumption and what they are eating.

"I am obviously married to someone who eats free-ranging, wild pest-control meat and I think he has good reasons for it. He gave meat consumption a lot of thought, and I think if everyone took the time to seriously consider their reasons for eating meat then we may be able to change some consumer behaviour."

New Zealand's meat addiction

Vegetarians make up a small proportion of New Zealand's population but numbers are increasing. In 2002 it was estimated that vegetarians made up one to two percent of our population, whereas the estimate now is closer to four percent. The likelihood of people becoming vegetarian also seems to be higher among young adults - particularly women.

The reduction in our meat intake a may be more necessary than we all realise - New Zealand is the fourth largest consumer of meat per capita in the world, eating a whopping 115.7kg of meat per person per year - nearly three times the world average. But what is all this doing to our environment?

Livestock is one of New Zealand's greatest contributors to greenhouse gases and, with global meat production projected to increase to 465 million tonnes in 2050, it is something that perhaps we all need to think about. According to an Oxford study published this year, meat eaters in the United Kingdom produce as many as two and a half times the greenhouse gas emissions than their vegan counterparts.

It's not only the greenhouse gases that we meat-eaters are impacting, there is also the issue of water consumption (leaving aside the environmental impacts of stock effluent).

According to the Water Footprint Network, every kilogram of beef produced uses 15,000 litres of water, compared to a kilogram of pulses (4000l), cereals (1600l) and vegetables (322l). Sheep meat comes in at almost 9000l, pig meat at 6000l and chicken meat at 4300l.

Plant-based alternative meat products, like those from Beyond Meat, are gaining in popularity in the States. Photo / Supplied
Plant-based alternative meat products, like those from Beyond Meat, are gaining in popularity in the States. Photo / Supplied

Moving beyond meat

These statistics have not gone unnoticed in the technological world, with major figures like Bill Gates and the cofounders of Twitter getting behind projects such as Beyond Meat - a company which is developing and selling new, plant-based protein 'meats'.

Beyond Meat is the brainchild of Ethan Brown, who is working to answer the question- would we continue to raise and eat animals in such staggering numbers if a perfect plant-based replication of meat existed? It's gaining traction in the US, and has been tested on many chefs and food connoisseurs who have been unable to tell the difference between the meat substitute and the real thing.

But Beyond Meat isn't just aiming at providing a new meat substitute, it's looking to redefine what we see when we walk into a supermarket. Ethan Brown's vision is that we no longer have a meat counter when we go to the supermarket but, rather, a protein counter.

Plant-based substitutes may not be our only option in the future. There is also research being supported by the co-founder of Google, Sergei Brin, to create lab-grown meats. Here the meat would come from the stem cells of animals and be grown in a lab to recreate muscle fibres.

This was achieved by Netherland scientists last year, and was eaten as a hamburger made of pure muscle protein. The projections for this type of meat is that it will be on supermarket shelves in the next five to ten years, so plant-based analogues may not be the only option for consumers.

There is, however, a more palatable third - and somewhat of a stop-gap - option: that of 'weekday vegetarianism'. Graham Hill, the founder of Treehugger, introduced this practice in his TedX talk in California in 2010. He said, knowing what he knows about the impacts of meat consumption - how could he not be a vegetarian?

Unable to give up his precious hamburgers, Hill instead chose to become a weekday vegetarian, sticking to the plants from Monday to Friday, and giving himself free reign on the weekends, a reduction of meat intake by 70 percent.

Tech-tycoon Bill Gates has invested in plant-based and alternative proteins.  Photo / Supplied
Tech-tycoon Bill Gates has invested in plant-based and alternative proteins. Photo / Supplied

The Tech-Food Crossover

Global tech tycoons with an interest in funding plant-based or alternative proteins:

• Funders of Hampton Creek Foods and Beyond Eggs - a plant-based egg substitute: Bill Gates (Microsoft founder, philanthropist), Jerry Yang (Yahoo co-founder), Jessica Powell (Google), Li Ka Shing (Horizon Ventures), Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures)

• Funders of Beyond Meat - a plant-based meat substitute: Bill Gates, Evan Williams (Twitter founder), Vinod Khosla

• Funders of Modern Meadows, creator of the 3D printed hamburger: Peter Thiel (Paypal founder)

• Funder of a lab-grown hamburger: Sergey Brin (Google co-founder)

Source: The New Zealand Herald

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