About four years ago I was sitting at a lecture which was given by Johanna Mäkelä, Professor of Food Culture at the University of Helsinki. Somebody in the audience asked her what she thinks will be major food trends in the coming years. Among others, she mentioned veganism.
Quite the fortuneteller. Now, in February 2015, Beyoncé has just launched a company that will focus on delivering completely vegan meals.
I do not know the details of Beyoncé’s programme but I do know that when formerly odd curiosities (yes, many people think a vegan is a person with dreadlocks, a green jacket and no money, with a seitan burger in his hand, in his sad yet anarchist life) become mainstream, old systems are bound to panic.
Since 1961, global meat consumption per person has nearly doubled. Virtually all countries except India represented in this interactive National Geographic piece depict a stark increase in meat consumption.
We also know that when taking into account the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, along with land use changes occurring for the sake of growing more feed for cattle, the sector is a major contributor to climate change.
In meat production and consumption the world is a divided place.
I can imagine a discussion between consumers from different nations when confronted about this trend. Do you think it would be possible to decrease your meat consumption a bit?
An Ethiopian person: Okay, No problem, I mean for example Ethiopian orthodox people are anyway fasting half of the year. That means we are already vegans for about 210 days a year.
An average Western person: Are you kidding me? Pork chops, pulled pork, chicken wings, steak, bacon. I want it all. That is my freedom. I am part of the western world and we have this thing called freedom!
Western freedom exists parallel to a total lack of moderation.
I am becoming allergic to the whole feed-the-world rhetoric. The real question to ask is: What do we want to feed the world with? Do we want to feed the world the way the rich world is eating at the moment?
To the first question, I say let us as consumers focus on eating quality meat products on special occasions and pay a fair price to the producer for that meat (the whole world will never go vegan nor should it).
And for the rest of our days, let’s absorb a little bit of Beyoncé’s and a little bit of Ethiopia’s ideology.
Photo of Beyonce by nonu. Flickr creative commons, original can be found here.