Recently, we’ve noticed that many people are turning to plant-based diets in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. From flexitarian to vegan, we’re digging into how (and why) people adopt different lifestyles to lessen their impact on the environment. Plus, as card-carrying food industry buffs, we’ve got the inside scoop on why incorporating more veggie-based options might be the next best way to boost sales at operations across all segments.
The meat industry’s impact on the environment:
Phew, this could be a thesis-level analysis of scholarly articles, but we’ll spare you the lofty hypotheses and keep it simple with some cold hard facts. If you’re interested in learning more, we have a bunch of resources posted below!
- Growing livestock feed in the U.S. requires 167 million pounds of pesticides and 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer EACH year across 149 million acres of cropland.
- The process generates copious amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- Red meats such as beef and lamb are responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as common vegetables and grains
- If diets continue the way they’re headed (that is, heavily skewed in the direction of carnivore), this will lead to an 80 percent increase in global greenhouse emissions from food production by 2050.
Amidst all these doom and gloom statistics we should mention that there’s a compromise that doesn’t translate to “eat exclusively rabbit food or we’ll all die.” It’s true that an overwhelming majority of the meat industry still relies on systems that are incredibly destructive to the environment. Fortunately, emerging agriculture practices, such as organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised meats offer an environmentally responsible way to enjoy a nice juicy steak every once in a while.
Environmentally conscious diets:
~22.8 million Americans are flexitarian. A flexitarian diet is exactly what it sounds like …a flexible vegetarian diet. Flexitarian is defined as a person “whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish.” Basically, eat a vegetarian diet, but make exceptions here or there.
~7.3 million Americans are vegetarian, meaning no meat at all. Vegetarians get their sustenance from things like vegetables, beans, grains, fruits, dairy, and eggs.
~1.6 million Americans are vegan. Taking it to the next level, a vegan diet eliminates all animal by-product. No meat, dairy, eggs, etc.
Fresh menu items we’ve got our eyes on:
Think outside the tofu container! There’s been a lot of great innovation happening in the plant-based category. Some flavorful ideas include, but are not limited to:
The Impossible Burger
Made from 0% beef, this burger cooks, tastes, and bleeds like the real deal. It uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas when compared to its beef counterpart.
- White Castle becomes first fast-food chain to serve plant-based Impossible Burger
- Petition asking McDonald’s to serve meat-free Impossible Burger passes 20,000 signatures (in two days)
A meal composed of a grain base. Add sauce, vegetables, toppings, proteins (meat, tofu, eggs) and arrange in a fun, visually appealing way, because why not.
Lunch runs to our North Loop neighbor Crisp & Green are a near-daily occurrence in our office. Packing a salad with superfoods like avocado, kale, blueberries, quinoa, seeds, and nuts elevates it from side to main dish. If our office is any indication, the superfood salad is a great way to go.
Blended burgers (not entirely beef)
An ongoing competition from the James Beard Foundation has encouraged chefs around the country to give blended burgers a try on their menus, which goes to show that support for experimentation with plant-based and blended proteins is coming from all levels of the food industry. We particularly love the one from our neighbor, Red Cow!
Curious about your carbon footprint?
Visit the WWF Footprint Calculator. Note: it’s a U.K. based-test so some terminology may be different, but it’s practical, robust and pretty accurate.
As a food company (or, for instance, an agency that specializes in helping food companies reach their highest potential…wait, that’s us!), it’s impossible to please everyone. However, taking steps to formulate more preference-inclusive products, offerings and menus can have huge benefits for your operation. Repositioning, repurposing or introducing veggies and grains can go a long way toward preserving our precious natural resources AND bring in business from the growing number of flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan consumers.