It’s a fact. In the western cultures (Europe and the Americas) there is a measurable downward trend where eating animal protein is concerned. The rural roadside vision of grouped cows contentedly chewing cud and staring at absolutely nothing is as common as ever, that’s true. But polls and studies have established that an interesting trend is afoot. In France the consumption of meat has dropped by around 10% since 1998, as just one startling example. This is huge, and not just because the French word for “beef” is the unnecessarily fancy-sounding “boeuf“.
France’s historic relationship with beef and livestock through the centuries—today about 25% of French soil is still comprised of pasture land—is such that this confirmed decline in beef-eating amounts to a sort of western culture dietary bellwether. While France remains the EU’s lead exporter of beef (though not necessarily to her EU neighbors), she is eating less beef herself. This is measurably true of the U.S. and much of Europe, too. And how’s about this factoid? In 2016 Germany, the U.S., and the UK lead the world in the introduction of new veggie-based packaged foods, with France, Taiwan and Canada bringing up the rear.
What the bell pepper is going on? It seems that a combination of “issues enlightenment”, personal health awareness, environmental intelligence and varying degrees of concern for animal welfare is turning people’s heads. Increasingly, the west is taking a closer look at plant protein and general plant-based nutrition as an augment to, or outright substitute for, a meat-centric diet. The message that factory-farmed meat is, among other things, turning our plum of a planet into a denuded prune? It’s a message that is slowly entering the conventional wisdom.
Pass the Salty Lecture
Restaurant big shots and consultants Baum & Whiteman have some interesting numbers to share by way of Mintel, one of the world’s most trusted market intelligence outfits [yeah, the veggies-and-meat conversation is a kingmaker where restaurant consulting is concerned]. According to Mintel, it appears that some 31% of Americans partake of personal meat-free days, and around 35% of Americans get most of their protein from sources other than red meat. Those are real numbers. Are these people faddists or alarmists? (ear-splitting buzzer sound here..)
Answer: neither. Check this out:
A throng of global investor-types actually got together to group-compose and launch a fairly fiery public letter to the world’s commercial meat giants — Kraft-Heinz, Tesco, Costco, General Mills, Walmart, Nestle, et al. The letter (written by concerned investors, remember) hollered at the meat giants in no uncertain terms, politely raging at them to acknowledge the "material risks of industrial farming, and to diversify into plant-based sources of protein”.
Diversity into plant-based sources of protein? Is this the new investor-speak?!
Your typical swaggering, power-suit-wearing, capital-markets-defining investor doesn’t just idly jot this stuff down on a cocktail napkin, chin in hand, while thoughtfully munching the pickled olive from her room-temperature Gibson (up, please). This carefully composed letter means business. You know, with a Capital B? The letter went on to call meat out as a "recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis."
What is this: Wall Street or Brussels Sprouts Street?!
Now, while all this may be good news for naked penned creatures with faces, it naturally begs us revisit the time-worn nutritional question: can we just eat leafy stuff and thrive?
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