The needs for animal protein in discussions on future nutritious and sustainable food systems seems to be missing from much of the rhetoric, says Jeremy Hill, Fonterra’s chief scientist and technology officer.
Windle, who oversees health and nutrition in the domestic marketing team of the NZ beef and sheep sector, says the NZ meat industry is aiming at quality over quantity as our grass-fed sustainably produced meat will be the product of choice for nutrition conscious consumers.
“Our industry currently feeds about 40 million people globally, but with a growing population we can’t feed everyone with our grass-fed meat.”
Surveys of NZers show there is a growing interest in changing diet from one that includes animal products or meat to one that reduces meat over time or eliminates it.
“We know that 7% of NZers are flexitarian. We are not afraid of that shift,” Windle told a Climate Change and Business Conference in Auckland.
“People are looking at meat more closely -- where it is sourced from and how it is produced. It is a great opportunity for us to showcase how that meat is produced in NZ which the world loves. But we take for granted how good our meat is here in NZ.
“We can’t shy away from the fact that we know a lot of people are shifting away from meat. But when they do choose to eat it they will be sourcing our more nutritious, grass-fed sustainable [product].”
Windle says the narrative of meat produced naturally and sustainably is where we want to position ourselves.
But she warns that we can’t sit on our hands and think we have sustainability in the bag.
“We anticipate that perhaps consumers will not pay for a sustainable product in the future. They will expect it as a minimum standard so we need to look beyond sustainability.”
Windle says diet plays an important part in environmental footprint but you have to look at the true impacts. Figures from a French study show a footprint reduction of 3-6% for a vegan.
“People think ‘I’m going to be a vegan, I’m going to save the world and have a huge impact’. I just want to put a perspective that it does have an impact but it is small,” said Windle.
“In America some modelling has demonstrated that if the whole of America went vegan tomorrow the reduction in emissions would be 2.6%. So yes there is a reduction but it is often inflated in discussions.”
Windle says you can’t substitute the nutrition found in animal foods.
“You can’t just look at greenhouse gases alone; you have to look at the full picture of a nutrient adequacy and density in our foods.”
She pointed out that while some plant based products are healthy they don’t meet daily nutrient requirements. For instance, with peanut butter you need to eat four times the amount of calories than red meat to get the same protein.
“It is not as simple as saying ‘I’m going to stop eating the animal products and just eat plant foods’…. You need to eat a lot more of them to get the nutrient adequacy.”
Windle says eating more calories is another form of food waste.