UN Report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” eyes a dark future

FAO-emblem_en(EDITED: I received an interesting anonymous communiqué indicating that some of the info in this UN Report is actually underselling the problem in some regards plus actually encouraging action that is contrary to what I would expect to hear after reading the introduction to the Report. I’ve added some notes below based on what I have learned.)

It is probably well worth reading the whole report, but I’ve included a link to the introduction of UN’s 2006 report regarding the incredible and increasingly insurmountable burden that the livestock industry is having on our planet.

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e01.pdf

The report outlines the many variables involved in the decimation of our environment, ecosystems and the future well-being of our species. The summary of the report gives the impression that one of the only ways we will see an improvement in our current climate change predicament is to stop eating meat:

  • 30% of the entire non-ice-covered landmass of earth is dedicated to livestock production and feeding; (my informant indicates that the landmass used is actually more like 45% according to this report)
  • habitat losses of other species because of climate change has already resulted in species disappearing at a rate of 100 to 1000 times the pace of species found in our fossil records
  • and currently one-third of all amphibians, a fifth of mammals and an eighth of all birds are now threatened by extinction
  • methane emissions from global agriculture is the largest from any other sector and methane causes 20 times the damage to the environment that CO2 does
  • while general global population steadily increases, demand for meat increases even more quickly as income and living standards increase and more people can financially afford to eat meat. The problem is accelerating rather than decreasing.

These are just a few general stats from this informative but possibly misleading report.

At first I was thinking that this landmark report was going to be a catalyst to possible widespread changes in the agriculture industry and people’s rethinking about meat consumption. However, the report later states that it is promoting “intensification” of the meat industry as the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems rather than eating less meat, the latter which I would have thought was more obvious. The trouble with this advice of course is that, if anything, cattle do not need an even more intense lifestyle than they already have and this will undoubtedly lead to even greater cruelty in the containment and treatment of these animals.

Apparently, the authors of the Long Shadow report are livestock specialists, not environmental specialists — and they work not for the UN but for the FAO (Food & Agriculture Org), just one of 19 UN specialised agencies.

Worse yet, it has been estimated that the meat industry is actually responsible for at least 51% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas according to Bill Gates, who cites an analysis done by environmental specialists employed by two other UN specialised agencies — the World Bank and IFC (International Finance Corporation). However, while Bill Gates is absolutely right in pushing for less meat consumption and more clever crop-farming practices, there’s also some suspicion that he is pushing hard for GM crops and is actively investing in it. This will of course be the new danger if and when livestock production is reduced; companies like Monsanto will step in and try to further control and intensify our food production in crops.

Another report also suggests that the determined efforts by governments to invest in renewable energy as the key to reversing climate change will either fail or come at an unrealistic financial cost compared to simply reducing our dependency on meat and the sheer number of resources required to upkeep livestock. The climatic improvements made by renewable energy infrastructure are largely negated by emissions created by the livestock.

Vegan-thinking is starting to rise into a powerful position in the media and into the minds of scientists and environmentalists, but what we need now is for governments to take the bold step forward in enforcing reductions in meat consumption and educating its citizens on why this unsustainable practice must be reversed.

Unless we can turn things around in very short order, we are looking at a near future where our demand for the food we want outstrips every. other. important. thing. about. this. world. The time to act is now (well, it’s probably passed that now, but we should start now anyway to lessen the impact!)

Aussie vegan products reviewed – part 2

**Originally written in 2013, with some updates in late 2018.

Continuing on with my newbie vegan ways, I have gone out at last and visited some proper vego/vegan stores like Goodies and Grains (a groovy shop in Adelaide which sells mostly organic stuff, but also vegan, fair trade and so forth; a lot of the organic grains and such can be purchased in bulk). I might also end up going to one of the good online sellers as well as they fill in a couple of the gaps and are slightly cheaper for some things.

One thing I learned today: organic non-dairy vegan food ain’t cheap!

When I got home, I had to engage in some “sport-forking”. If you’re not familiar with this, it is the tearing open of all the new stuff you bought and doing the rounds taste-testing each item. Very fulfilling! 😀

Anyway, on with some reviews.

NOTE: I am coming from the perspective of a recent/former meat-eater who is not trying to show how much different vegan products are from their original counterparts, but rather if they can stand alone as decent things to eat, while still trying to somewhat satisfy my cravings for the originals. So I’m not going to come down too hard on them unless they are just truly nasty-tasting, but they will get top marks if they are both delicious and provide a great replacement for the original meat or dairy product.

I finally managed to find some non-dairy yogurt, non-dairy vegan cheese that was promoted as being very good, and dairy-free chocolate:


PRODUCT: VEGUSTO NO-MOO PIQUANT
Type: Non-dairy cheese
Country of origin: Switzerland
Vegusto UK

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VegustoPiquantBETTER277x277

Vegusto is an multi-award-winning company that has been around for a few years and produces vegan meats and cheeses that are 100% natural ingredients and have an impressively substantial list of things that their products are free of like palm oil, GMOs, gluten, casein, cholesterol, trans-fats, and many more. I have only seen their cheese products here in Australia but some of their meat products looks amazing and I hope they come here soon too.

With this “No-Moo Piquant”, the first smell that hits you is smelly cheese…a good sign! Flavour-wise…wow! Very impressed. Easily could be some unique variant of hard cheddar or even a blue-veined style. Not too sharp but just right. No funny aftertaste or suspicious flavours within.

Texture-wise, it has good cheesy character; it crumbles like aged dairy cheese though is slightly waxy. When brought to a wine and cheese party, diary-cheese eaters were enjoying the flavour though it still doesn’t quite rival what people would see as the nuanced best of dairy cheeses. It’s not a melty type of cheese, more of something you’d put on crackers or eat in a ploughman’s lunch or on a cheese board.

At around $11 for a 200g block, it outpaces most fancy dairy cheeses and so I would consider it in the “occasional purchase” category. If it were down to about $7, I would consider it good value. It sells in the UK for about £5 which is AUS$9 so we’re not getting ripped off much considering it’s come from Europe but it still seems a bit high for what it is.


PRODUCT: COYO COCONUT YOGHURT W/PINEAPPLE
Type: Non-dairy yoghurt
Country of origin: Australia
Como.com

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aust_-natural_300g_organic-banner-2000x1000.jpgCoyo tells the story of founder Henry Gosling who has the claim-to-fame of being the originator of yoghurt made from coconut. (If this is true, his fantastic innovation has become the industry standard in non-dairy yoghurts, now, updated in 2018).

The first of their products I tried is the pineapple version (dairy, soya, gluten & palm-oil free). Their mandate is: “no empty calories, fillers, preservatives, additives, refined sugars, or artificial anything!” They use high-quality vegan cultures and are certified organic.

This is a beautiful confection. It’s like eating a piña colada with that lovely pineapple flavor (comes in other flavors too). Smooth and coconutty…yum! A very luxurious product (UPDATE: pineapple seems to have been removed from their 2018 line-up, replaced with chocolate, mango &passionfruit, plum & guava, and vanilla bean)

Texture-wise, I am not sure I would call this yogurt as the consistency is more like sorbet or mousse-like dessert. These aren’t bad things at all but I am not sure I’d put it with my oats in the morning. It’s a bit too thick and decadent!

At $5 for 300g or $9 for a 500g tub (Adelaide, 2018), it’s fairly pricey…probably the most expensive coconut yoghurt I tend to see on the shelves. It is luxurious and delicious, organic and clearly made with love by a small company, so that brings up the value a bit. Once coconut yoghurt can compete head-to-head on price with dairy yoghurt, we’ll see a real conversion from dairy I believe.

 


 

QUICK REVIEWS

Alter Eco Dark Twist Organic Chocolate (organic, fair frade, soy and dairy free) FLAVOUR: This one has an orange flavor built in which is quite nice. It is wholly reminiscent of other dark chocolates I have had (this one is 60% cocoa) which is a good thing! Easy to enjoy. TEXTURE: very difficult to tell that this Swiss-made chocolate is lacking dairy.  PRICE/VALUE: $5.95 for 80g bar so about 25% more than an equivalent Lindt I suspect.

I also bought some Veganpet Vegan Dog Food today ($4.95 for a 400g tin) and my dog ate it, so that’s a good sign! The ingredients have all sorts of yummy veg and so on, so I’m not surprised really. It smelled like a veggie curry.

I’ve got some Wot No Dairy yogurt to try and a couple of other Rice and Almond milk which I’ll get onto to in the coming days.

Aussie vegan products reviewed – part 1

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Since I am very fresh rolling with my recent decision to become a vegan/vego, I figure that I may as start classifying what I eat not only for helping people out there but even just to remember what I’ve liked and haven’t on my journey.

It’s early days and I haven’t gotten any further than the local Woolies so the variety is pretty non-existent so far. But it’s somewhere to start and to be fair, Woolies seems to be trying hard to do the right thing with their ‘Macro‘  line of goods, and clearly identify non-dairy options within that line. Woolworth’s has strikes against it however which may preclude shopping there much, as they contribute heavily to gambling addiction in this country and own an awful lot of pokie machines. Buying goods is never as straightforward as you think, now is it??

NOTE: I am coming from the perspective of a recent/former meat-eater who is not trying to show how much different vegan products are from their original counterparts, but rather if they can stand alone as decent things to eat, while still trying to somewhat satisfy my cravings for the originals. So I’m not going to come down too hard on them unless they are just truly nasty-tasting, but they will get top marks if they are both delicious and provide a great replacement for the original meat or dairy product.

To kick veganism off, I wanted to replace certain things right away: milk, yogurt, cheese and no meat of course.  So I started with:

  • Macro (Woolworth’s) Vegetarian Soy Cheese with chives. FLAVOUR: Quite nice, subtle chive taste; not too sharp. Slightly bland otherwise. TEXTURE: good cheesy character; grates easily; melts pretty well and has a cheese-like mouth-feel. PRICE/VALUE: $5 for 200g so expensive-ish
  • Parmalat Soy Life Yogurt – Vanilla Creme flavour. FLAVOUR: I like vanilla so it was quite faithful to that. Vague soy element but overall quite yogurt-like. TEXTURE: very yogurt-like in texture and consistency. PRICE/VALUE: $3 for 2x175g so not much more than other individual-pack yogurts. I couldn’t see a bulk one but would buy that next time.
  • 730941Macro (Woolworth’s) Organic Almond Milk (sweetened; tetra pack) FLAVOUR: Other than subtle almond/soy flavour, very milk-like when drinking straight. I imagine you could easily disguise it as milk in anything. TEXTURE: same consistency. Would be hard to detect as not milk in tea/coffee/cereal, etc. PRICE/VALUE: $3.39 for 1 litre so about 2.5 times the price of a Devondale tetra 1 litre. I like that it is organic though as its competitors aren’t.

I couldn’t find any other cheese or yogurt substitutes in Woolies, and they didn’t do a mayonnaise alternative there. I did buy a Sanitarium Soy Milk (So Good) but haven’t tried it yet. I’ll be seeking other replacements this week at a couple of dedicated health/vegan shops and online.

My meat-eating lately really had been restricted already to once a week or so with beef and chicken but nearly daily with fish (smoked or tinned salmon). I decided to try some meat-like soy items as I wanted to make pizza. So I got some pepperoni and also some bacon:

  • Sanitarium Bacon Style Rashers. FLAVOUR: Kind of not really bacon but also just bland. Bacon has such an intense flavour that it really needs to be amped up here. In a BLT type sandwich, you could barely tell it was there. On the fry-pan, it does manage to get that bacon smell though and if you cook it to near crispy it’s a bit better. TEXTURE: as I would expect, simulating bacon’s texture and mouthfeel iVD_Deli_Luncheon_Henchen_375gs tough, and this doesn’t really come close or tries to really. More like a processed sandwich meat. PRICE/VALUE: $4.50 for 145g so expensive-ish compared to real bacon and doesn’t really deliver.
  • Sanitarium Pepperoni (spicy). FLAVOUR: Better than the bacon for sure. Pleasant to eat directly and on a pizza it was quite effective. Not as intense as real meat, but pretty good substitute. TEXTURE: a bit similar to the soy cheese in texture. Or the bacon perhaps, but that is more like real pepperoni. PRICE/VALUE: $5.75 for 200g so about twice the price of normal pepperoni.

I’ve heard about a chicken product by Beyond Meat in North America which is supposedly the first non-meat product to have nailed the mouthfeel and flavour of chicken. This makes me very excited and I hope it’ll make it to Australia in the near future. I’ll be in Canada/US mid-year, so if not before then, I’ll see what it’s like when I get there!

EDIT: Some research on soy has alerted me to just how bad these unfermented products are for us except in extreme moderation. Check out my blog entry on this!

I’ll keep updating reviews as I get products over time!