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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Consume correctly or be consumed

According to the Greenpeace website the destruction of the Brazilian rainforest exceeded previous figures during April 2021. It's a shocking statement, bearing in mind we are all supposed to be doing our bit for the planet right now. However, it appears we are not doing enough.

Is a climate emergency insufficient reason to change behaviours?

Obviously not. Brazil’s National Institute for space research demonstrated that 58,000 hectares of rainforest became areas of deforestation during April this year. If you want to know what that compares to, it’s about the size of the Isle of Man. What’s really worrying is this represents a 43% increase compared to last year and at a time where we are experiencing a climate emergency. You have to ask, what needs to happen before we take action?

Words, words, words

Rômulo Batista, Amazon campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil stated that the latest climate summit promises made by the Brazilian government have been broken. In fact, it appears the government is encouraging deforestation. You can imagine the fear for indigenous people, wildlife living in the Amazon rainforest and of course the impact on the world’s climate.

It’s difficult to read such sad news without anger

When you also live on the other side of the planet, we all wonder if anything meaningful can be done. However, Greenpeace has asked supermarkets in the UK to think again about what kind of meat packing companies they use. JBS, which happens to be a global leader in this field, is still being used by major supermarkets and significant fast-food chains. The links with JBS are in fact helping to fund this deforestation. It’s obvious we all need to think very carefully about the food we buy and be far more mindful about what we eat, where it comes from, how much we truly need and what we waste. Photo: DJ Johnson

Are our shopping habits really green?

In fact, the environmental impact, even on vegan foods can be significant. The well-known trade magazine, The Grocer undertook research this year. That research showed 62% of consumers have purchased plant-based milk. Anyone that has stepped into a supermarket will see how demand has increased exponentially with almost every kind of milk alternative now available.

Keep drinking almond milk then watch what happens

Photo: Mockup Graphics

However, are plant-based milks actually good for the environment and should you be thinking carefully before picking one from the shelves? In 2018 Poore and Nemecek produced data that demonstrated the following:

Carbon emissions per litre (CO2EQ per litre), land use (sqm per litre) and Water use (litres per litre)

The data is as follows:

CO2EQ) SQMPL Litres per litre

Cow’s milk (global impact) 3.2 9 628

Cow’s milk (Europe) 2.2 2.2 248

Rice Milk 1.2 0.3 457

Soy Milk 1.0 0.7 123

Oat Milk 0.9 0.8 54

Almond Milk 0.7 0.5 371

Not only do we need to look at the environmental impact we also have to consider the nutritional content too

This month, Which Magazine investigated the options. Cow’s milk for example produces calcium, protein and all nine amino acids that are essential for good health. If you buy European milk, it has less of an environmental impact. Do we ever truly check the source of our milk? Yet, what is missing here, for UK readers, is the environmental footprint of buying local milk in the UK. After all, we haven’t even begun to discuss packaging and transportation in this article. Perhaps drinking locally sourced milk in glass bottles might be the answer. Any thoughts?

Almond milk on the other hand looks good until you look at water use

Almonds love and need masses of water but often the milk itself only has 2% almonds in it and as a consequence very little protein. Also, pesticide and the general condition of the land where almonds thrive means that bees too have a very hard time.

Coconut milk has been growing in popularity

As a consequence some tropical areas are now experiencing deforestation. Biodiversity is also impacting the environment and there is a certain amount of exploitation among farmers and workers.

Photo: Thais Do Rio

Hemp seed comes out well

Except it has little protein value but is low in saturated fat and has omega 3 and 6. But the real star of the show appears to be pea milk. Having spoken to a local trader his anecdotal evidence is that people don’t go for pea milk because of the colour. No, it’s not green as it’s made from yellow split peas and has a slightly creamy colour that some do not like. However, its environmental credentials are better, especially if it’s grown locally. It is calcium rich too.

Is your vegan meal ultra processed and heavily packaged?

I am guessing the conclusion to draw from all this is that our shopping habits do have an impact on climate change and environmental concerns. Have you noticed that the increase in vegan foods has seen ultra-processed foods appearing in the shelves that are also highly packaged? Surely, we should be eating as cleanly as we possibly can. Is that naive?

This represents a massive challenge for the food and ingredients industries

I will be very interested to see how they tackle these contemporary conundrums in the next few years. Obviously, there are some major challenges that will need to be managed. Integrity is also top of the list. It is not enough to pay lip service to this profound change. Therefore need for highly qualified, intelligent and forward-thinking executives is going to be incredibly high. There will be shortages, of that I have no doubt. Now is the time for careers services to show young people just how a career in the food and ingredients sector can be aligned to ethical, moral and environmental concerns. We have to drive this agenda and do all we can to make a tangible impact before it's too late.

If you would like to discuss how I might help you find the right people to complete your team do make an appointment for a no obligation conversation about how we might begin the search.


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