Food is incredibly personal. For many people, their dietary choices and respective labels are so much more than easy ways to express what you do/do not eat, they represent an identity. While it is great to see people who are proud to call themselves vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or meat eater, when it comes down to conversations about the impact of our food choices, these labels can be very limiting.
There’s no two ways about it, our current industrialized food system favors cheap meat and dairy and that is having a massive negative impact on the environment. Industrial animal agriculture currently occupies around 50 percent of the world’s arable land, uses a majority of our freshwater stores, and is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector. On top of this, it is a leading cause of deforestation, air and water pollution, and a major driver of species extinction.
Our population is growing rapidly, and if we hope to feed a population of 9.8 billion people by 2050, we need to make a change. What that change should be, however, is highly contested across different dietary labels. Meat-eaters tout the benefits of “grass-fed,” organic, “humane” meat from small farms – and on the other end, vegans opt to remove all animal products for ethical reasons. Given this dichotomy, there is a lot of time wasted on debating ideologies – especially when it comes to the question of how are we going to feed the world?
In a recent episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias, acclaimed food writer Mark Bittman offers a practical solution everyone can agree on. Bittman has authored over 20 books and the tenth-anniversary edition of his bestselling kitchen classic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian was recently published. Mark may write a lot about how to cook vegetables, and even has a book dedicated to helping people eat vegan before 6pm, but he is an adamant meat eater himself.
In Bittman’s view, it doesn’t matter how you label yourself, two facts remain: everyone needs to eat less meat and they need to eat more vegetables. If we want to create a truly sustainable food system and fight the health crisis we’re facing in this country and globally, we need to be able to talk across label boundaries and find common ground.
This conversation plays to the vegan/meat-eater binary and illustrates how these important discussions can be had regardless of personal beliefs. For more on the simple advice that everyone can agree on, listen in!
You can listen to the full episode below or on the following platforms: iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher.
If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe to the #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias podcast for new episodes with food industry leaders, health, and sustainability experts, as well as entrepreneurs and creative minds who are redefining the future of food.