This week in the (plant-based) news

Meat eating and its effects on our health, the environment and the animal welfare is a hot topic. More and more people become aware of the negative side effects and more and more people in the western world claim to be vegans or vegetarians. A natural development is that every week, plenty of related stories hit the news. People are really interested in these things.To help us all stay on top of relevant developments in this field I will from now on, ever so often (I’ll aim for weekly), compile a summary of the latest news stories, from a plant-based perspective, and share it with my readers.So here we go, first time out,  this week was all about…:Story 1: US PANEL BACKS LOW-MEAT DIET FOR HELPING PLANETThe piece of news that by far made the most and biggest headlines across the globe this week was the release of The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report recommending Americans to eat less meat and more plants (among other things – less sugar was also advised whilst a few cups of coffee was given the green light).  The committee consists of some of the world’s most renowned nutrition experts who looked at the American dietary guidelines from both health and environment perspectives. They meet every five years for a review, and has historically been a main influencer on the governmental eating guidelines which for example sets the direction for what children are served in schools.“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet,” the report says.With Americans currently eating more meat per capita than most other nations (at a whopping 235 pounds per person and year only Luxemburg consumes more), this new report is great news indeed, and it will be very interesting to follow what comes out of it.Here are some of the links:BBC: US Panel Backs Low-Meat Diet For Helping PlanetWashington post: Nation’s Top Nutrition Panel: The American Diet is Killng UsWall Street Journal: Diet Experts Push More Plants, Less Meat in Nod to EnvironmentStory 2: THE MEAT INDUSTRY SAYS REPORT IS ‘FLAWED’ AND ‘NONSENSICAL’ As expected, the report was controversial to some, including representatives of the American meat and soda industries and their response also made headlines this week.The North American Meat Institute slammed the report, calling it “flawed” and “nonsensical.” Members of the meat industry as well as those from soda makers, say the panel has gone “beyond its scope”.It is now up to each and every one of us to decide whether to trust the American meat industry or a panel of the world’s most well esteemed nutritional experts when it comes to making decisions regarding one’s personal health and the safety of future generations….Fox News: Beef producers say Obama is Trying to Kill Their IndustryStory 3: THE EFFECTS OF CHINA’S GROWING PORK CONSUMPTION Now we’re moving over to China and some distressing facts in a Forbes magazine article about the effects of the country’s increasing pork consumption. Chinese consumers who have a history of eating very little meat are now consuming it in plenty and pork in particular. In fact, 60% of the world’s pigs raised for meat live in China.The article brings up a few facts worth highlighting:
  • Raising pigs takes a whole lot of land, water, grain and fossil fuels. Per calorie, pork requires five times as much water as starchy roots. Producing one pound of pork requires six pounds of feed and 576 gallons of water (this is by all means not unique for China of course).
  • With increased demand comes increased production and China’s livestock industry has already given birth to the deadly bird and swine flu. To fight future diseases, China is using an enormous 200,000 tons of antibiotics per year for its live-stock, which has led to a drastic increase in bacteria with antibiotic resistant genes.
  • The Chinese meat industry are behind a number of recent scandals, including dumping 16,000 diseased pigs in a river supplying Shanghai with its tap water last year, the 2011 story of meat vendors selling coloured pork as beef (because it is more expensive) and KFC and McDonalds being caught to sell old meat which had expired over a year earlier.
Forbes: What Chinas Growing Appetite For Pork Means For The Environment China’s escalating meat consumption is significant. The amount doubled between 1990 and 2002. Back in 1961, the Chinese consumed a mere 8 lbs (3.6 kgs) per person, while in 2002 they reached 116 lbs each (52.4kg). And with China being such a large country and a dominant world economy the rest of the world is affected – the Chinese appetite for meat is a main driver behind the steeply increasing global meat consumption. And in a globalised world, problems such as epidemics and super bugs don’t only concern its country of origin. Additionally, we must should all also look at the facts in this article with the awareness that although some things mights be a bit more extreme in China in this regard, these issues are similar to the meat production in other parts of the world.Story 4: A FULLY PLANT-BASED SCHOOL TO OPEN IN 2015To end on a positive note, this week’s last link is about America’s first plant-based elementary school which will be opening in California in the autumn of 2015. The team behind the initiative are Avatar director James Cameron and his wife.“It’s about raising kids who don’t think it’s strange or exotic or worthy of a pat on the back to be doing the right thing for the living biosphere.” said James Cameron.New York Daily News: James Cameron and wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, to make their school all veganCertainly very exciting news and a sign that more and more people are indeed realising that eating meat products is not always the way to go and are seeking out options.That’s it for this week. Let me know if you think I have missed any major stories. I would love to hear from you!Ida