Why eat plant-based

This term I have started a new student project with Fazer Lifestyle Foods, a growing business segment of the Fazer Group, which offers plant-based products for contemporary, environmentally and health-conscious consumers. The aim of our brief is to better understand consumer behaviour when it comes to changing dietary habits from animal-based towards plant-based options. In order understand consumer behaviour, the first step for me was to understand the motivations behind choosing a plant-based diet, starting with the impact on the environment. This is what I discovered…

In nations where meat consumption is high, such as those in the West, a shift towards reduced meat and dairy consumption is an efficient strategy for combating climate change and biodiversity loss.

70% of the world’s deforestation is currently the result of stripping land to grow animal feed.

This has considerable implications for biodiversity and the stability of ecosystems via habitat loss and water and soil contamination. The problem is exacerbated by industrial farming methods such as high-levels of fertiliser and pesticide use which similarly contribute to biodiversity loss and also pollute the atmosphere.

Excessive meat consumption raises ethical questions in regards to feeding the growing population.

If crops grown for animal fed and biofuel were diverted for human consumption at a global level, it is predicted that four billion more people could be fed.  Furthermore, currently 33% of the world’s arable land is used to grow animal feed. In contrast, it is predicted that worldwide adoption of plant-based diet could reduce the need for cropland by 600 million HA.

It is calculated that industrial scale livestock farming is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite this, it is important to acknowledge that small-scale agriculture and pasture-fed animals are generally less harmful and can even improve biodiversity. I believe responsible animal husbandry plays an important role in regenerating land and should not confused with industrial-level farming practices. In this sense it is important to go beyond doing ‘less harm’. For example, organic grass-fed beef can lower fossil fuel costs, reduce soil erosion and contribute to greater natural diversity.

Rather than ‘sparing’ land from human interference, it is important to acknowledge the positive influence wildlife friendly farming can have on regenerating land that has already been damaged.

According to the ‘planetary health diet’ published by the EAT Forum, January 2019, in Western society meat consumption should be dramatically reduced but not entirely eliminated. Now the question remains as how to achieve this change in dietary behaviour.

If you follow a flexitarian or plant-based diet, what motivated you to change your eating habits?

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section.

Stoll-Kleemann, S., & Schmidt, U. J. (2017). Reducing meat consumption in developed and transition countries to counter climate change and biodiversity loss: a review of influence factors. Regional Environmental Change, 17(5), 1261–1277. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1057-5

Image: Taken by me of cattle grazing in Slad Valley, Gloucestershire.

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