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Posted 8 months ago
Do you think that one day, people will eat more plant-based foods than meat?
8 months ago
While the bulk of the answers here have been constructed along ideological lines (mostly to advocate either for or against vegetarian/vegan diets), everyone seems to have lost the plot: the question itself is based on a massive misconception. In the world today, people already eat more plant-based foods than meat, and they do so by a VERY large margin. Not only that, but this has always been the case throughout modern history.
Even the most carnivorous major countries rarely get more than 10–12% of their total calories from animal protein and most fall somewhere between 2% and 8%.
Per the World Bank, which has been collecting these data for about 60 years, the richer a country gets (i.e. the higher the average person’s wealth), the higher the percentage of calories that come from meat and other animal sources. There are certainly exceptions, where some rich countries have a slightly higher percentage of vegetarians, but as a general trend, meat is rich people's food. There are also some countries, particularly in places with arctic climates, where folks get a much higher percentage of their sustenance from animal protein, but no major country is even close to getting more than half of its calories from meat. Even at the highest end, this proportion rarely exceeds 10%.* And there is no time in the modern era when they did. We have been primarily herbivorous omnivores as a species for many, many centuries.
So why do we have such a skewed idea of what we as a species eat? There are a number of reasons. One is that such questions are typically asked by advantaged people in wealthy countries who are lucky enough to have a choice of what to eat. They tend to look more extensively at the ethical and philosophical aspects of eating rather than those connected to survival. In other words, for them, it’s a decision, whereas for many it’s not. Another reason that many people have the misimpression that we eat much more meat than we do is that food in first world countries has become very politicized. Just as issues surrounding healthcare, free speech, reproductive rights, and tax structures are a big part of political identification, the apparent ethics of food and its sources have become part of political identity as well, even where science doesn’t support an ethical distinction. This extends far beyond vegetarians vs omnivores, and also includes such scientific non-issues as organic cultivation and the use of GMOs. As such, political groups who espouse vegetarian and vegan lifestyles have made such an issue out of the consumption of animals that people think it’s a bigger percentage of our diets than it is. Even in the supposedly ravenously carnivorous US, less than 10% of our calories come from animal protein. Another contributor to our misunderstanding of how much meat we eat is the way in which we eat it. A large percentage of people who think of themselves as eating a lot of meat also consume a large amount of plant-based food along with it. While they may think “I mostly eat meat” they don’t always count the potato, rice, pasta, soda, juice, bread, or other items they eat with it. And in some countries, especially in Asia, the meat is practically a garnish used to flavor the staple item that is typically plant-based. But none of those people would call themselves vegetarian.
All of this behavior is deeply rooted in our evolutionary heritage. Just as the meat has for centuries been a luxury to be savored by those who could afford it, our hunter-gatherer predecessors treated meat as a luxury to be consumed sporadically when it could be caught. During the in-between times, they ate plant-based food.
So while the idea of some plant-based future nirvana is a common theme in today’s ethical conversations about eating, we are already doing a pretty good job of eating that way. And the disproportionate attention focused on reducing the remaining 10% is a bit of a long tail. It’s true that the 300 million tons of animals we eat sounds like a huge amount. But in the end, we eat way more plants than animals. In fact, roughly speaking, we already eat between 9 and 50 times as much plant-based food as meat. There is no need to wait hopefully for “one day” to come if that’s your goal.
8 months ago
Vegetarian and vegan evangelists notwithstanding …
We are already there. By an overwhelming proportion. Our modern Western diet is predominantly plant-based and it’s killing us. Just take a walk through your grocery store and observe how much of the store is dedicated to meat versus plant-based foods. Isle after isle of cereals, kinds of pasta, cookies, chips, jars of tomatoes, olives, mushrooms. Of course, there’s also the meat counter and the deli and lots of frozen meats. But the majority of the floor space is given over to plant-based foods including the majority of the junk-foods. And the same for the contents of most shopper’s buggy.
Even eating a meal at a burger joint like McDonald's. You’d consider that eating a burger is a meat-based meal, right? Just examine the contents of a typical tray.
Yes, there’s the burger which is meat, but the bun plus pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, maybe a “special sauce” and such will add more calories than the meat. That’s the burger. Now, look at the rest of the tray. Fries on the side (fried in soybean oil by the way). Add on a dessert to have with the coffee - a danish or muffin and the overwhelming source of calories is plant-based. Unconvinced?
Let’s look at McDonald’s own nutritional information. A big mac has 560 calories. But the two meat patties at 90 calories each provides 180 calories. Supersized fries has 610 calories. You heard right. More calories than the big mac. Without anything else on your tray, you’re up to almost 1200 calories with less than 200 from meat. That means less than 20% of calories from meat. Add a muffin and soda and the meat proportion drops to a mere 10%.
McDonald’s is a wretched place to eat on a regular basis. And it has nothing to do with meat-based vs plant-based. As it turns out, there are far more junk foods made out of plant-based foods than meat-based. In fact, the junk-food industry is primarily plant-based.
It just so happens that there are ways to grow healthy and sustainable plant-based foods as well as meat-based foods. Sustainable ways that are good for the planet and good for the environment. As you can see, I don’t agree with the underlying premise of the question; i.e., that plant-based eating is healthier than meat-based eating. But if you were to ask the question …
“Do you think that in the future people will be eating more sustainable and environmentally friendly foods?”, then my answer would be an unequivocal yes. And have no doubts that those foods will be both meat and plant-based. Vegetarian and vegan evangelists notwithstanding. And there are a host of real and solid reasons why meat will not be going away anytime soon. But you didn’t ask about that so I’ll leave it at that.
8 months ago
Yes, and it’s already happening. People used to be very closed-minded on the subject but nowadays everyone I know has become much more accepting. Where I live (London) no one has ever made negative remarks about what I eat and most people actually think my diet is pretty healthy. Vegan diet is recognized as healthy and is included in all official nutritional guidelines of both the health system in the UK and recognized institutions granting professional nutritional diplomas.
Vegan options were hard to find in restaurants and supermarkets before but for the last few years they have become so many as the demand has grown significantly and we are now spoiled with choices. I rarely see a place in London now not having at least one vegan option. The same can be said for New York and most countries I’ve visited in Europe.
There are now vegan ice creams, cakes, desserts, croissants, some great vegan cheeses, numerous plant milks, vegan nuggets, fillets, balls, slices, burgers, etc. All meat recipes can be adapted to vegan style.
Also, from my observation, people are getting more and more aware of the realities of the meat-producing industries and there are so many educational movies, researches, scientific reports, and what not to support vegan lifestyle as best for the environment, the animals, and what’s most important to everyone - our health.
One day people will look back at human eating habits and shake their heads in disbelief wondering how could we happily kill animals to satisfy our taste buds given there is such an abundance of tasty and healthy plants we could enjoy eating.
It’s gonna be similar to the cigarette smoking demise, if not steeper, as people are getting more aware and can no longer be fooled meat is necessary for their survival.
8 months ago
I’m going to assume you mean moving to a vegan diet. I’m also going to assume that you’re talking about countries/places where they eat mostly-meat diets since technically, on a global scale, we already eat more plant-based foods than meat.
There are issues with diets that are majority meat-based and diets that rely solely on plants. Animals take up a lot of land for grazing that could be used to grow crops that could feed a larger amount of people. There’s already a lot of chatter about this point, so I’ll spare you. I will say that eating a little meat is fine as it can be a more efficient means to gain energy. The number of plant foods needed for some nutrients can be enormous compared to the equivalent meat amount. But that is for some nutrients, a majority of nutrients you can easily obtain from plants just fine.
The problem for a totally plant-based diet to be healthy and delicious is that it requires a variety of plants in large quantities that they would have to be shipped around the world to parts that don’t naturally grow the same crops. (There’s a reason most humans living in colder climates are the ones who started to eat meat.)The increased demand from countries/areas with colder climates for quinoa, avocado, etc has already caused major environmental disruptions as well as misuse of human labor.
There has to be a movement to eat foods (plants AND meat) grown/raised locally until we can convert most grazing fields to crop-growing ones in the warmer climates, crack the code on global agriculture that doesn’t harm the environment and people, and/or figure out a way to decrease our taste buds to be satisfied with food/vitamin pills (this way we can get by during harsh weather conditions with a plant-based diet that is nutritiously fine even if not tasty).
The most a single individual can do is be aware of where they buy their food and balance what’s best overall for their body as well as the larger world……and that’s if they’re in a financial position to be able to make such choices. Time to learn and cook new vegan recipes and have the wallet to buy all the ingredients can be a luxury some people don’t have. I personally hope that the answer to your question is “yes” but it’s something we have to work towards together, realizing all the challenges and not stopping to hit each other on the heads when we stumble/or find that different people have different needs.
8 months ago
Not necessarily, but I do believe, that in a comparatively short time most of the meat/protein consumed will be lab-grown, so it will take a whole lot of issues out of meat consumption. Meat farming as we know it will become obsolete.
I personally, would switch in a heartbeat and pay more willingly, if such an option became available. For the last decade, our family had to settle for buying such products and eggs from the local farmers, who we know personally. We know for a fact what they do and do not do. For example, we happily pay $3.50 a pound for our Thanksgiving turkey, while we can easily get it for under a dollar per pound elsewhere. Same with eggs. For fifteen years we have been paying $3 per dozen (recently went up to $3.50) when in the grocery store it is a fraction of the cost.
I think there are lots of people like us. Some of them live in metropolis settings and do not have the option to pay more for ethically obtained products. But lately, there is more emphasis on just exactly how the food was obtained and I think it is a good thing.
I am not talking here about large families on a limited income who are struggling and are doing the best they can. I pass absolutely no judgement. But there is a comparatively large segment of the population (at least in the US), who, given the opportunity, will gladly support ethical farming. And, when technology makes lab-grown meat available, we will support it as well. Especially when the quality becomes comparable with traditional products.
So, in my opinion, in the future people might not consume less meat, but rather will adapt more ethically acceptable options.
8 months ago
There are diets such as the carnivore diet, ketogenic diet, and Atkins diet which can be high in animal protein, but these would not be the majority diets for most people. I live in Australia, which has a high level of meat consumption, but most Australians would have fruit and vegetables in their diet as well as grain-based foods. I think there is a greater movement to plant-forward diets, where plants feature more prominently. Vegan and vegetarian diets appear to be growing in popularity. We are encouraged by nutritionists to even have up to 7 serves of vegetables and 2–3 serves of fruit daily, and a small proportion of people are listening to these recommendations. I am concerned that microplastics are being found in fish and this may be a detraction from eating seafood in the future. The greenhouse gas effects of eating meat and the amount of water required to obtain 1 kilogram of meat will increasingly be factored into people’s diets so that we can be more environmentally sustainable. The rise of plant-based artificial meats will give people the mouthfeel of meat, and maybe even somewhat the taste, without people feeling deprived. I fear that the way land management is going that good quality meat may become increasingly expensive in the future. In the future, we may be forced to eat more plant-forward meals for economic, environmental, and food safety reasons.
8 months ago
Subway and Taco Bell already has "fake meat".. have you tried Subways grilled chicken meat? Barely tastes like chicken at all, it is chicken but it's mixed with fillers and then they add fake grill marks on it. Taco Bell created a commercial after people said their meat was fake.. they assured people it was real meat (it's not). The Subway chicken breast was sent to a science lab and they did a DNA test on it and concluded that it was not entirely all chicken meat. So maybe that day has already come and some people are already eating plant-based foods without knowing it.
But I don't think people will change their eating habits, most vegans are typically people who live in more middle to high-income areas and have easy access to organic vegan food, and most vegans take vitamins to supplement their diet.. for a low-income person to do all that, buy certain kinds of vitamins and know what food to eat to obtain proper nutrition, it's not really ever going to happen. So I think veganism and meat-eaters will stay the same, and I also believe culture has a big role in it too.. most ethnic cultures eat meat and that's a big part of their heritage which they are never going to let go of (except Hindus which I believe are vegetarians, not vegans).
A problem is that when I don't eat meat and eat vegan, I notice that I am always hungry and I need to eat more frequently (maybe a sign of a lack of nutrition). Humans are supposed to have a diet of variety.. from veggies, whole grains, fruits, meat, and fish.. that is why when you eat the same thing every day, it doesn't taste good anymore because your brain is designed that way as a survival mechanism so that you can have a varied diet. So when I eat nothing but fruits, veggies, and nuts, my body becomes unhappy and it's a signal that I need to eat a little bit of everything.. not just vegan food.
I do think the impossible Burger is the right move... if you could make the fake meat actually taste really good and make people not tell the difference, then I think there's a chance. I don't mind fake meat or tofu, I just want the food to taste good. I cannot eat vegan soup and I don't know how others can, it tastes very watery and extremely bland... I do however love veggies (especially tomato sauce) and whole-grain… but foods like burgers, spaghetti, and especially soup need to taste good (vegan spaghetti and soup are not very satisfying to eat).. until then, I don't think I can switch. Plus, most importantly, the price needs to be affordable and don't cost more than regular meat. A lot of restaurants overcharge for a salad which in reality is super cheap in price... that's a problem for me. I think the key is moderation and less reliance on meat, eliminating meat totally will be very difficult.. especially for people with certain cultures and heritage. Also, keep in mind, certain places like Alaska and Greenland have no choice.. they eat seafood and it's an important part of their diet. They cannot grow most crops where they live.. the climate is too cold.. so they eat seafood and sometimes caribou (reindeer). Yes, the caribou could eat weeds and shrubs, but you seriously think people should eat that too? I don't even know if they can digest that… If they had a truck or plane ship veggies to them, in reality, the cost of gas and the environmental damage will outweigh the benefits.
So it comes down to culture, location, and income level which I don't think will change. If you think countries like Asia, Southeast Asia, and places like rural Alaska, Canada, and Greenland or even the rural UK are ever going vegan, dream on.. the rural living indigenous people of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland either eat meat (caribou), or they eat mostly all seafood.. and the reason how the Inuit is so healthy and able to survive on a 100% fish meat-based diet is that when they eat the fish or whale, they eat the whole thing which basically gives them a full spectrum of vitamins (like iron). The fat from the meat or fish is what keeps them warm... if you had these people switch to a vegan diet, they will likely perish and not survive the harsh winter.. let alone, getting a truck or airplane to ship fresh veggies up into these rural areas is going to damage the environment much more than you think because of the massive use of fuel and creation of carbon. People will eat what's available to them... if you live in the suburbs, you can easily buy groceries that are hand-picked by farm field workers (usually immigrants). If you live in a very rural area or in a certain 3rd world country, you may not have that luxury of a supermarket.. so unless the whole world becomes rich, they will not turn vegan. Maybe in America, it may happen, but it will only happen in the suburbs or urban cities. Folks living in the countryside or Alaska will have to eat what is accessible to them.. and there comes a point where shipping veggies to that rural town is going to be expensive and not really feasible.
8 months ago
I think most of the world currently eats primarily plant-based foods than meat. According to this paper (Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment), 2/3rd of the world's population eats a primarily plant-based diet.
The article makes the claim that “The shortages of cropland, freshwater, and energy resources require most of the 4 billion people to live on a plant-based diet”, which implies they would eat meat if they could.
I suspect that is correct and that they are not eating plants by choice but by necessity.
I live in the U.S., so I don’t feel comfortable speaking about other countries, but a large part of our cultural heritage is the cowboy, herding cattle that will eventually become steaks. Carl Sandberg wrote a poem about Chicago with the line “Hog Butcher for the World”. Large parts of the country have their own specialized style of BBQ, each with an enormous focus on particular cuts of meat. Wikipedia says the US has the 5th highest per capita consumption of meat. (List of countries by meat consumption - Wikipedia) I think of us as the country of the hamburger and hot dogs. America likes meat.
There are some good reasons to move to a more plant-based diet, though. From the same article above, “The meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than the lactoovovegetarian diet”. So there are economic forces that can influence people to eat more plants.
Animals raised for food also contribute to a significant amount of greenhouse gases. According to this article, “Estimates vary, but livestock is reckoned to be responsible for up to 14% of all greenhouse emissions from human activities”. (The cows that could help fight climate change)
Nutritional science is not an exact science - there is a lot of contradictory evidence, views of what is healthy shift over time, etc. - but I believe the consensus is that a primarily plant-based diet is healthier than one with more meat. Eat more plants, fewer animals - Harvard Health Blog
All of this said it does not mean that knowing what to eat leads to actually eating it. Meat is delicious. Fat, umami, and usually salt - these things have a powerful attraction, healthy or not.
I suspect the shift to plant-based diets will be the result of a combination of strong economic incentives against eating meat and plant-based alternatives that satisfy a desire for meat. For instance, market-based and/or government-imposed increases in meat costs would almost certainly lower consumption. Meat alternatives like the Beyond or Impossible burgers would gain popularity if they were significantly cheaper than beef. I haven’t tried the Beyond burger, but I found the Impossible burger to be pretty tasty and would eat it again.
To go back to your original question, I think the real issue is what percentage of the population will eat a primarily meat-based diet in the future. I think the percentage will decrease, not to zero though. And I don’t believe that a large percentage of people will ever eat no meat; instead, I think they will simply make do with less. This is what writer Michael Pollan thinks too - that we will consume less meat, and probably less as an individual item than as a supplement to plant-based dishes.
But it won’t happen by choice, not for most people. It will happen when eating more meat is simply not an option, either due to cost or unavailability.
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