Our Food and Its Choices
The Connection Between Food and the Earth's Environment
The food we casually consume holds an influence on the Earth’s environment that we may not even imagine when savoring its taste.
The impact of the global food system, especially livestock farming, on climate change is undeniable. In fact, livestock farming is responsible for over 1/6th of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock emissions also include methane, which, according to the United Nations, causes up to 34 times more environmental damage than CO2 over a century.
With the pressing need for urgent action, how will industries transform? According to Bloomberg Intelligence, the world market for plant-based dairy and meat alternatives is projected to grow fivefold to $162 billion by 2030. Insect-based food is also gaining attention as an alternative to high-impact ingredients. The global scale of insect farming is estimated to exceed $1.18 billion by 2023. To produce 1 kg of insect protein, it requires approximately 10% of the feed, water, and land needed for the same amount of beef, with greenhouse gas emissions being just 1%.
It is challenging to grasp the issues that “food” carries, which we cannot directly see. Therefore, in this discussion, we will explore the approaches of companies surrounding our daily lives and what choices lie ahead for us, from the perspective of Generation Z.
Considering the Future of Alternative Meat from a Health Perspective
From supermarket shelves to fast-food menus, alternatives to animal-based protein have become prevalent.
During my time in Denmark, vegan meats, cheeses, and milk were very common ingredients. However, in Japan, they are still less frequently seen. You might find them in fancy supermarkets or cafes, but their presence is relatively limited.
How can alternative proteins gain more prominence in Japan?
Looking to Europe, which is ahead in terms of adoption, discussions on environmental and animal ethics certainly underpin the surge of alternative foods. A survey by BCG conducted in Western countries showed that over 75% of respondents cited “healthier eating habits” as their motivation to replace animal-based proteins.
Furthermore, the European Parliament supports plant-based alternatives from a perspective of reducing the cancer risk associated with red and processed meat. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Europe.
On a corporate level, Unilever points out that plant-based proteins contribute to blood sugar control and aims for annual sales of €1 billion in alternative meats and dairy by 2025-2027.
Traditional Japanese cuisine, known for its nutritional balance and healthiness, has long incorporated plant-based proteins such as soy. The key to alternative meats becoming mainstream in the Japanese market might lie in keywords such as “health” and “wellness.”
Plant-Based Food and Evaluation Framework
The investment network “FAIRR” has designed an evaluation framework for companies producing plant-based foods. This framework sets consistent criteria for evaluating environmental impact and nutritional content, aiming to promote ESG investments and the growth of startups.
Good Fish Guide
The “Good Fish Guide” provides a service to check for sustainable seafood options. It rates the environmental impact of fishing and aquaculture on a five-tier scale, with farmed abalone receiving the highest rating.
The Future of Insect-Based Food
Although insect-based food is highly regarded in research, societal biases remain. Tonbarin, who studies entomology at Texas A&M University, compares the current perception of insect-based food to how sushi and lobsters were once seen with disgust, suggesting that over time, it may follow a similar path of acceptance.