Monday, February 07, 2011

A bad week for meat

A bad week for meat

April Dembosky, writing in this weekend's Financial Times, reports that the spectators at the Super Bowl will be munching baby carrots and baked lentil crisps instead of the normal fare of fat in chips and burgers. The demand for "healthy" snacks and food in the USA is growing fast, and one in four snacks now has a label saying it's a "better for you" product.
Pepi-owned Frito-Lay says that by the end of the year half their snacks will contain only natural ingredients - they are following the speciality food sector making crisps and other snack products from lentils, falfel, hummus and beans.

Meanwhile, the #1 book on Amazon has been Kathy Freson's new title - Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World. It details the physical and environmental benefits of a vegan diet in shocking and compelling terms.

Here's an excerpt from an interview on the top news Website, Huffington Post. Click

Interviewer CE: Tell us a little about the phenomenon of disease reversal that you explore in your book.

KF: Substantial peer reviewed studies indicate that some cancers are not only halted but can be reversed by a plant-based diet. That's very exciting. But even more accepted is the fact that heart disease can be halted and reversed by a vegan diet. And type 2 diabetes can be reversed in a matter of weeks. You can get off your medication, under a doctor's supervision of course.
    Weight begins to drop after just 1 week on a vegan diet. Your thermogenic levels go up after 3 weeks, which means you're getting a 16% higher calorie burn after eating a vegan versus a meat-based diet. Plus of course you're getting the fiber -- so you won't feel the need to overeat. Plus there's no saturated fat in vegetables. There are just so many health benefits to a veggie-based diet.

CE: Do you consider the environmental effects?

KF: Absolutely. It's a complex issue, but to put it briefly: raising animals for food is the primary cause of: land degradation, air pollution, water shortage and climate change. If we care about the planet, then eating vegan is an excellent step we can all take.

CE: Tell us what was the most shocking thing you learned in researching this book?

KF: I'd have to say what's happening to animals every single second. 10 billion animals are killed every year in the U.S. And 60 billion worldwide. Although the industry says it's moving towards more humane practices, 9 of 10 animals killed are birds. They don't have humane slaughterhouses. They're crammed in cages, live in near darkness, pumped with antibiotics. I just think it's shocking. So many of us simply don't know the truth.
    Eating a vegan diet is the most direct way we can put into practice values like kindness, compassion and mercy. When we eat consciously, we're automatically following those values.

If that wasn't enough to cut national meat consumption, celebrity host Oprah Winfrey decides to focus on the same theme in this, the final season of her long running TV show. Oprah challenged 378 of her staff members to join her in going vegan for a week. The results are posted on the Winfrey site, and viewers get to see healthy people who have lost weight and feel great as a result.

Oprah Winfrey wields huge influence. The consequence is that many businesses in America are planning to get on the bandwagon and have their bosses offer staff the same challenge, on the basis that it will inspire workers to live healthier, and hence more productive lives.

The American beef industry hasn't stood still. Cargill have created a video on meat.   It starts with a visit to the Timmerman Feeding feedlot at La Salle, Colorado, which has 12,000 cattle each putting on about 3lbs of weight per day. The film shows them in a blizzard, with snow on their backs and some inches of slurry round their feet. It then goes on to show them being transported to the Cargill Meat Solutions plant at Fort Morgan, Colarado, which takes in 4,500 head a day in 140 truckloads. Cargill had the courage to allow filming all aspects of the job, apart from the actual captive bolt operation.

Neither the BBC or ITV have an Oprah Whitney, but the country certainly has an increasing number of vegetarians and vegans, many with a passion and commitment sufficient to influence and agitate. Could they demand prime broadcast time to match that provided each week on Countryfile? Or demand that their beliefs need a similar airing to those chefs who create meat dishes? That being vegetarian or vegan is actually an 'ism' or belief and not simply a quirky dietary practice.

The UK meat industry needs to plan for such eventualities, for if they don't they will be caught napping. Farmers' groups need to study the Oprah slaughterhouse video. They need discover the results, and assess the effect of such a film on UK audiences. If something similar was shown from a UK slaughterhouse, would the reaction be positive - 'okay, I've seen how livestock are slaughtered and prepared and now know it's humane and acceptable', or the reverse 'I've never seen anything so gross in all my life'.

The question is - should the UK meat industry become pro-active or not?  Please let me know your thoughts.